Voicemail is a standard feature and easy to set up. You will be charged airtime when accessing it, though you do have the option of checking it from a landline or other phone instead.
Frankly, I don't have high expectations for any phone company's customer service in terms of hold times, the number of times I expect to be bounced along the menu, etc., but I was pleasantly surprised by their customer service when my phone broke. I needed to transfer my number to a new phone. The customer service rep spoke clearly. She guided me through all the buttons I had to push and through all the numbers I had to enter. With this topic, though, it pays to emphasize that your mileage may vary.
And speaking of changes.
If you move around, you are allowed to change your Tracfone number to reflect your local area code up to four times in a year. They will give you a new phone number, and you keep your minutes.
You can keep your old number instead, so that your friends can still reach you.
No! Not yet anyway, though the US Gov't has mandated that they allow unlocking fairly soon.
Until then, if you want to buy a cheap Tracfone handset and then use it up with a standard cell phone service provider without having to sign a two-year contract, you're still out of luck here. (If you really want to go that route, there are plenty of unlocked GSM phones available elsewhere.)
On the other hand, Tracfones handsets are inexpensive. If one gets lost or breaks, you can just go out and get another one.
You can also now bring your own phone to Tracfone by buying a SIM card kit or a CDMA access kit.
Once you buy your handset, you have to...
You can activate your phone online or by calling their 800 number from another phone.
I recommend doing it online because you have to enter and confirm a long serial numbers etc., and it's easy to make a mistake while punching those buttons on a phone. It's easier to enter them on a form online so you can double-check the number before you hit the Enter key.
On the other hand, it's just as easy to add minutes via the handset itself, unless you're adding airtime from more than one airtime card. Usually, it's a better value to buy enough minutes on one card rather than several cards.
When you add minutes online, you can check whether you have entered the correct promotion codes for bonus minutes.
Since offering local number portability is the law of the land, you can port your current cell phone or home phone number.
(Note: Think before you port your home phone number. That line will be disconnected.)
You get 100 minutes if you port your phone number when you sign up AND if you either sign up for one year of service by buying a one-year card or if you buy a double-minutes prepaid card. (Updated to reflect new requirement.)
You have to purchase a phone and then go to the portability page on their website. Do not cancel your old service until the number has ported.
So you're all set to go, but maybe you have friends or relatives abroad.
Yes, you can now use your Tracfone to make international calls to many countries at no additional charge.
So you should be all set to make your choice.
If you still think Tracfone is the way for you to invest in your family by cutting your cell phone costs, you should get a package deal online because they often save you even more compared to buying them in stores.
I hope this information has been helpful in figuring out what's best for you and your family.