How Does a Trac Phone Work?

By Contributing Writer

How Trac Phones Get a Signal

Cell phones work by picking up a signal from the nearest cellular tower. This is what we typically refer to as "having service." The closer you are to the tower or the stronger the strength of the signal, the better service the phone will have. Most phones pick up cellular signals only from the towers that are provided by the service on which they are registered. For example, a Verizon phone will pick up signals from Verizon towers, while a T-Mobile phone will recognize signals from T-Mobile towers. This means that if you have a Verizon phone in an area without Verizon towers, the phone will not pick up service in these areas, unless your phone plan offers roaming charges, which are usually quite expensive. Trac phones are unlike other cell phones because they are programmed to pick up service from any cellular tower with an available signal. This means they are capable of having service where other phones may not.

How Trac Phone Contracts Work

When you purchase a Trac phone, you buy service for a certain amount of time, such as a year or two years. Typically you pay once for a service contract, which enables the Trac phone to recognize cellular service from any given cell tower. Often, the Trac phone provider will offer a certain amount of "units" in conjunction with an airtime, or service, purchase. However, you are free to purchase any amount of units in addition to what is offered as a bonus for purchasing or renewing service time. It is important to select your "home calling area," which should be the area where you expect to make the most calls. The units of time that are purchased and put onto the Trac phone will not expire, as long as you remember to renew your service agreement.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Trac Phones

Trac phones may or may not be the most affordable and dependable option depending on your lifestyle in regard to how much you use or need a cell phone overall, the frequency that you travel significant distances, and other factors. It is important to take into consideration that "units" are different than minutes. In your "home calling" area, each minute uses up one unit of time; however, if you are out of this area, each minute uses two units of time. Then again, it can be reassuring to have a Trac phone that will get service in a remote area if you are lost. Evaluating the best cell phone option for your lifestyle is ultimately your responsibility; however, many people choose to have "emergency" Trac phones. These can be kept in your car or suitcase when traveling and used in areas where other cell phones will not work. This way, if you don't use the phone on a frequent basis, you will rarely need to purchase additional units of time--all you need to do is renew the service agreement.