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as our prepaid cell phone service. They offered a good balance of features, reliability, coverage and price, especially price. We were happy with our choice, but lets review and see if its right for you.

First, lets compare where were coming from. Were your basic family here two young children, so you probably wont find it surprising that we decided to cut unnecessary expenses in order to try to provide the best for our children. One way to do that is to get rid of your monthly cell phone contracts.

Android smart phonesare now available from Samsung, LG, ZTE and Huawei.

Nowadays there are such great choices that even when you choose a prepaid phone you dont have to miss…

Well, you can purchase their phones and airtime cards almost anywhere. Its hard to find a store in America that doesnt carry them!

They also have good deals online, but lets not get ahead of ourselves.

First, well check out their coverage, rates, handsets, features and customer service. By the time were done, youll be confident in your decision about whether to go with them.

Coverage is key – especially when traveling. Tracfone lease their network coverage from other cellphone companies. Practically speaking, this actually translates togreat coverage.

Note: your mileage may vary. In my area, Tracfone seems to lease their network from AT&T. In other areas, they use the T-Mobile or Verizon (if you have a CDMA phone) networks.

One way to find out who your local carrier is by sending a text or MMS message via a friends Tracfone to one of your email addresses. The messages you receive will have the senders address in the format similar to my-phone- carriers . In my case, messages came from m, so I knew my local carrier for Tracfone was AT&T.

Anairtime cardwill allow you to add minutes, data and texts to your account balance. The minutes are usually good for a period of 90 days or 1 year depending on the card.

Separatedataandtext cardscan add additional data and texts to the account balance of smart phones.

Triple Minutes for Life(TMFL) phones give youthree timesthe number of minutes stated on the airtime card (except for the smartphone or byop plan cards).

Double-Minutes-For-Life (DMFL) phones simply give you twice the number of minutes for every airtime card activate.

If you have a phone thats not a double-minutes phone, you can also buy a double-minute cards that will convert your phone and give you double the minutes on future airtime card purchases.

When you activate your card, the phone actually displays the number ofunitsyou have, NOT minutes.

There are no roaming charges with their recent phones. No matter where youre calling from, every minute of a call uses up 1 unit of your account balance.

Text messages on feature phones cost only 0.3 units from your airtime balance. Smartphones have a separate allotment of texts.

Older models may be standard-rate phones, for calls from your home calling area, 1 minute uses up 1 unit of your account balance. Text messages on these older Tracfones cost 0.5 units.

Older Tracfones may charge a roaming rate of an additional minute for each minute of a call.

These airtime minutes have to be used within their…

Units on an airtime card are usually valid for 90 days. If you add airtime before your units run out or before the service period ends, the remaining units rollover and your service period should be extended by 90 days beyond the current expiration date. Using two 90-day cards, you can extend your service period to a maximum of 180 days.

You can continue to add minutes, but for a service period longer than 180 days, you may have to buy a one-year airtime card. At least thats the official policy.

You pay more for these one-year cards because you are paying for an extended service period and for the minutes. You can extend your service period to a maximum of about two years (730 days to be exact).

Luckily, there is always a pretty goodpromo codeavailable which adds up to 200 or 250 minutes to a one-year card. Factoring in those extra minutes makes the one-year cards a worthwhile purchase.

So now that the rates are pretty reasonable, youre probably asking yourself:

And if you have decided but want to get phones for the whole family you can check out theirfamily plans.

Some member of the family may also want to purchaseringtones.

While Tracfone offers a great selection, their plans dont really work for those who text a lot. So if thats what youre interested in, you may want to check some of the other plans.

Heres a list ofsmart phonesfrom Straight Talk.

People often choose prepaid phones for their kids because theyre affordable. However, if youre concerned about usage, you may want to consider plan withparental controlssuch as Kajeet.

One drawback with TF is that you cant use it with unlocked GSM phones. (You can now bring a CDMA phone and buy an access code.) However, you can use the Straight Talk and NET10 unlimited plans with aSIM card.

Pay as you go and monthly plans are available fromPTel (Platinumtel)and can be used with unlocked phones on T-Mobiles network.

The same is available fromRed Pocketwhich runs on the AT&T network.