Nowadays, you have more options than ever if you want to ditch your old phone plan and save some cash each month. Budget carriers like Straight Talk and Tracfone use the same networks as the big four US carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint) while offering significant savings each month.
We’re going to breakdown the differences between Straight Talk vs. Tracfone to help you decide if one of these carriers is right for you.
Note: Tracfone owns Straight Talk. But there are significant differences in how each budget carrier operates.
Skip the details, who’s better?
Both Straight Talk Wireless and Tracfone offer affordable, no-contract phone plans. If savings are your top priority, Tracfone has a range of plans between $20-30 that include talk, text, and 1-3 GB of data.
But, if you’re looking for larger amounts of data at a reasonable price, go with Straight Talk.
Both Tracfone and Straight Talk are MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators). MVNOs down own or operate cell towers. Instead, they lease space on big networks and setting prices for their own customers.
MVNOs claim that since they don’t have to pay for infrastructure or maintenance, they can afford to charge lower prices for cellular services compared to the big four telecom companies.
Many MVNOs stick to one network. For example, Cricket uses AT&T’s network, and MetroPCS uses T-Mobile’s. On the other hand, both Straight Talk and Tracfone use all four major carrier networks.
Tracfone is America’s largest no-contract cell phone provider. It operates under its own name and through a variety of brands, including Straight Talk, Total Wireless, Simple Mobile, and several others. They sell both low-cost cell phones and no-contract service plans along with calling cards.
You purchase Tracfone products online, by phone, and in a variety of places, including Walmart, Dollar General, Best Buy, and Tracfone stores.
- Coverage on all major networks
- No annual or monthly charges
- Cheap sim card
- A large variety of affordable plans
- Cheap activation $.99
- Unlimited carryover data
- Large selection of budget phones
- International calling
- Can lease smartphones
- No unlimited data plan
- Plan options can be a little confusing
- Adding data is expensive
About Straight Talk
Tracfone operates Straight Talk as a simple, affordable option for data-hungry users on a budget.
Walmart has an agreement with Straight Talk to retail its products in-store exclusively. But you can purchase Straight Talk phones and cell plans both online and by phone.
Straight Talk Pros
- Great coverage on all major cell networks
- Competitive speeds even with big four carriers
- Large selection of Android and iPhones with promo discounts
- Cheap activation $.99
- Large number of compatible phones
- Good international options (with an added fee)
Straight Talk Cons
- Only three primary plans
- Hotspot only available on $55 plan
- No family plans
- Below average customer service
Tracfone has a large variety of different plans, all aimed at budget-conscious consumers. They have three monthly options that we will compare with Straight Talk’s plans. These include unlimited talk and text plus a data allotment:
- 1GB: $20
- 2GB: $25
- 3GB: $30
Aside from these, Tracfone has a variety of service plans for different amounts of time:
- 500 minutes, 500 texts, 500MB (30 days): $15
- 500 minutes, 1,000 texts, 500MB (60 days): $25
- 750 minutes, 1,000 texts, 1GB (60 days): $35
- 750 minutes, 1,000 texts, 1.5GB (90 days): $45
- 750 minutes, 1,500 texts, 2GB (90 days): $50
- 1,500 minutes, 1,500 texts, 1.5GB (365 days): $125
Tracfone really has the edge when it comes to budget. You can get one of their affordable 90 days plans and have the flexibility to add data when and if you need it.
Straight Talk Plans
Straight Talk makes things simple. They provide three main plans from $35-55 per month. Don’t be confused by the words “unlimited.” Their unlimited plans are for an allotment of data at 4G LTE speeds that is then slowed down to 2G speeds after it’s used up. Technically, they’re still unlimited, but you won’t be able to do much at those speeds.
These are the three plans:
- 3 GB: $35 per month ($34 with Auto-refill)
- 25 GB: $45 per month ($44 with Auto-refill)
- Unlimited: $55 per month ($50/month for three months with Auto-refill)
Along with this, they offer a 2-line, unlimited plan for $90 per month.
Winner: Tie. On a pure cost basis, Tracfone is the winner. But for plans that match the average smartphone user’s needs, Straight Talk is a better option.
Straight Talk vs. Tracfone: Family Plans
Straight Talk doesn’t offer a family plan. As mentioned, it only has an unlimited 2-line plan for $90 a month.
Tracfone doesn’t have a simple family plan either (look to its brand Total WIreless instead). Tracfone does offer a family discount on lines. But the monthly plans aren’t eligible for it. Instead, you have to buy airtime.
Here’s an example of one of the Tracfone family plans:
Tracfone 50 Plan:
- Adds 50 MINUTES to the first phone every month automatically
- Additional lines are $5.99/month and receive 40 minutes
- Adds 30 DAYS OF SERVICE every month
- $9.99/month plus $5.99 for each additional phone
- Enroll using your Credit Card
- No activation or cancellation fees
- Service Protection Plan – Enroll and protect your service by receiving a 30-day service extension if needed. Enrollment is FREE! You only pay $5.99 if you reach your Service End Date.
Winner: Neither. Straight Talk doesn’t have a true family plan. If you feel compelled to stay within a Tracfone-owned company, look to Total Wireless. Cricket (owned by AT&T) is well known for its affordable family plans. Metro by T-Mobile currently has excellent offers on family plans as well.
Straight Talk vs. Tracfone: Coverage and Performance
Since Tracfone and Straight Talk operate on the same networks, users can expect the same coverage and performance with either carrier.
The way this works is if you’re bringing a Sprint phone, you’ll use Sprint’s network. If you’re bringing a Verizon phone, you’ll use Verizon’s network (etc., etc.).
If you have an unlocked phone, however, you can choose whichever carrier works best where you are. So if Verizon has the best performance in your area, you can get a Straight Talk SIM card for Verizon. For the best performance and coverage, choose the carrier that has the best reception in your area.
On the other hand, if you purchase a phone through Straight Talk or Tracfone, it will automatically use either T-Mobile’s or AT&T’s network.
Overall, both carriers’ performance is comparable to the big four carriers. However, your data may be deprioritized during times of network congestion.
Straight Talk vs. Tracfone: Phones
Both Tracfone and Straight Talk allow you to bring your own phone to the network. All you have to do is purchase a $0.99 SIM card kit. Likewise, both carriers have a large selection of budget phones if you want to buy a phone directly from there.
You also can lease a phone through both carriers. The interest rate is 10% for two years, so try to pay off your phone in a year if you can.
Leasing from an MVNO isn’t the best deal because of this. You’re better off purchasing a phone outright or leasing through one of the big four providers. These companies don’t charge any interest and have a wide variety of incentives.
Straight Talk vs. Tracfone: Rewards
Oddly enough, Tracfone doesn’t have a rewards program. It’s one of the only carriers that doesn’t have one. So Straight Talk is the winner here. Straight Talk has a variety of rewards and perks for auto-fill, signing up friends, paying bills on time, and more.
Straight Talk vs. Tracfone: Customer Service
Both companies have less than stellar customer service. It’s a definite example of getting what you pay for. Based on the reviews, however, Tracfone seems to be slightly better overall than Tracfone in this area. The one major advantage is that they do have live chat help on their website, which is a definite advantage over most budget carriers.
With either service, be prepared to solve most of your challenges yourself or through user forums.
Here are the toll-free numbers for both services:
- Straight Talk: 1-877-430-2355
- Tracfone: 1-800-867-7183
Bottom Line: Straight Talk vs. Tracfone
Both Straight Talk and Tracfone are cellular providers that can save you money on your monthly phone bill. If you want to get out of contracts, skip all the red tape, and keep a little extra green in the bank each month, either of these is a good option.
Overall, customers looking to save the most money should go with Tracfone but expect small data allowances of up to 3 GB a month max. For those looking for a combination of data and value, Straight Talk is an excellent choice.
Head over to the Buyback Boss Blog for more of our carrier battles. For more on budget carriers, check out this guide on MetroPCS and Boost. Here’s a look at a budget carrier vs. a big four network in MetroPCS vs. Verizon. For all things, smartphone, tech, and more visit the blog now!