Net10 TracFone Comparison

Net10 is a corporate-cousin to TracFone, and they gives a simple answer to what should be a simple question: how much do I pay per minute?

With TracFone the answer is, "it depends." It depends on how many minutes you buy at a time, whether or not you have double minutes on your phone, and which TracFone promotional codes you can find. With Net10 on the other hand, the answer is easy: 10 cents per minute. No matter what size of Net10 airtime card you buy, the minutes always cost 10 cents. Easy!

With other cell phone providers' prepaid plans, such as Virgin Mobile, T-Mobile, Cingular (AT&T), and Boost Mobile to name a few, the answer gets complicated. They all offer 10 cents/minute, but only after you jump through some hoops such as paying daily fees or spending a minimum amount. Net10 is simply 10 cents/minute all day every day with no extra fees or surcharges. Again, Easy!

Since this site is primarily about the TracFone prepaid service, I'll focus this review on how TracFone and Net10 are the same, and how they're different. If you want more details on how Net10 stacks up against other providers, there's a nice comparison page here.

When doing a Net10 to TracFone comparison, you will quickly find that they basically offer the same phones, but Net10 typically charges $20 to $30 more than TracFone for the same phone. Since the phones are the same, the coverage area will be essentially the same also. Interestingly enough, however, you cannot use TracFone airtime cards with a Net10 phone, and you a cannot use Net10 airtime cards with a Tracfone phone.

Also, with most TracFone airtime cards your service time gets extended 90 days, but with Net10 airtime cards your service time gets extended as little as 30 days and as long as 180 days. You typically get more service days per dollar spent with TracFone than with Net10.

So the question we have to answer is whether Net10's cheaper airtime makes up for their shorter service time extension. At the root of this question is another question: how often do you plan on using your phone?

If you're the type that wants a phone to put in the glovebox and use only in emergencies or the occasional call, then definitely go with TracFone. If you're the type that talks on your phone on a daily basis and uses hundreds of minutes per month, then definitely go with Net10.

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But what if you're somewhere in between? As a general rule, my advice is to concentrate on how much a phone will cost you per month or per year, not how much it will cost per minute. For example, to keep a Net10 active for 6 months you could buy their 1000 minutes and 180 days card for $100. To keep a TracFone active for 6 months you could buy two of their 60 minutes and 90 days cards for a total of $40. Which is a better deal?

The answer depends on how much you use the phone. If you only needed 120 minutes over those 6 months, then why pay $100 when you could have only paid $40? Sure it's nice to have all those minutes on your phone, but if you don't use them you're just wasting money.

The break-even point seems to be somewhere around 100 to 150 minutes per month, which is 1200 to 1800 minutes per year. TracFone now has a card for $139.99 that gives you 800 minutes, one year of service, and double-minutes on all future airtime cards you add to the phone. A standard one-year, 400 minute card cost $99.99. So it would cost you $139.99 the first year and $99.99 in future years to get 800 minutes per year. Spend another $80 to buy two 200 minute cards, which would each get doubled to give you a total of 800 extra minutes. You've now spent a total of $180 (in the second yearand beyond) to get 2000 minutes and over a year of service.

With Net10 you would pay $200 to get 2000 minutes and a year of service, or you could spend $180 to get 1800 minutes and a year of service.

My advice would be that if you're planning on using your phone for about 100 minutes per month or less, then go with Tracfone because it will be cheaper it the long run. If you think you'll use more than 100 minutes per month, then go with Net10 because it will be just as cheap and it's simpler and more straightforward.

Clear as mud? I thought so. The bottom line is that TracFone and Net10 both have decent phones and a reliable prepaid wireless service, so you really can't go wrong with either one. Let your anticpated monthly usage be your guide, and you'll end up with the right choice!

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