A reader, Jake, asks
So now I’d like to buy a brand new (Verizon) iPhone on eBay to replace my old (Verizon) iPhone on my Tracfone account. Some of those new iPhones on eBay are cheaper than at the Apple Store. But since the Tracfone SIM card specifically says it’s for “Used Verizon Smartphones,” does that mean I cannot use a new (Verizon) iPhone from eBay on Tracfone? I am unsure of the source of those new iPhones on eBay. Could some of those new iPhones on eBay be from Verizon customers selling an iPhone they got on one of those “Buy One Get One Free” iPhone deals? If so, could such an iPhone have a Verizon lock on it, preventing its use on Tracfone? So I guess the real question is: Is it too risky to buy a new (Verizon) iPhone on eBay for use on Tracfone? Would a new “Unlocked” iPhone on eBay work with Tracfone? Or should I only buy a SIM-free new iPhone directly from Apple? Is “SIM-free” the same as saying “unlocked?” Sorry for the million questions, it’s kind of confusing stuff. Thanks.
If you want to get a new iPhone to use with Tracfone you have a few options.
First, you can buy a new iPhone directly from Tracfone. For September 2018, Tracfone currently sells iPhone 7, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6, and iPhone SE. Sometimes they sell these phones at discounted prices and sometimes you can save even more when they offer a phone and plan bundle discount code, where you can save up an additional $100 off the price of the phone. These phones can only be activated with Tracfone. After one year of service, Tracfone will unlock the phone for free. See my latest tracfone deals and promotions page here, Latest Tracfone Deals, note I didn’t update it for September as they didn’t have any good deals for the month.
Second if you don’t buy an iPhone directly from Tracfone, you’ll can get one someplace else and sign up for BYOP. When you go the BYOP route, you’ll need to order a BYOP SIM for one of the three different Tracfone towers or networks. Most people signing up for BYOP bought their phone from their current or previous carrier, AT&T,Verizon, T-Mobile , or Sprint. Tracfone labels their SIM kits with statements like “for used Verizon phones” to help people understand this, it doesn’t mean the phone has to be a used Verizon phone.
To use a phone on Tracfone’s Verizon network they need to offer service on the Verizon network in your area(by zip code) and your phone needs to be “eligible” or “compatible”. To find out if your phone is eligible you’ll need to check the phone’s serial number, or MEID, on tracfone.com. If the phone is eligible you can sign up or transfer your current service to the new phone. Tracfone doesn’t provide a clear explaination of why some phones are eligible and others are not but here are a few guidelines.
1. The phone needs to technically be compatible with the Verizon network. For iPhone, you need to check the model number to know.
2. The phone must not be on a contract or payment plan with Verizon
3. The phone must not be reported lost or stolen
4. The phone should be unlocked, all iPhone 5 and higher sold prior to Winter 2018 are unlocked.
5. the phone should not come from a Verizon account that is in default
If all these are true, the phone should be eligible.
Third, if you buy a full price SIM-free (unlocked) iPhone directly from Apple, it should be eligible. If for some reason it isn’t check with Tracfone customer service. Check the MEID print on the box and the one in the settings on the phone.
Fourth, If you are going to buy a used iPhone from eBay or some other source you want to check a couple things. First you can ask the seller if they will tell you the phone’s MEID before you buy it so you can check the it yourself. Second, understand the return policy. Some seller’s offer 14 or 30 day returns. You may need to pay for return shipping. Also ask the seller if any restocking fees apply. If you are buyinf a phone from a company that sells used or refurbished phones, they may not be able to tell you the MEID number of the phone that will be shipped to you because they have hundreds of these phones to sell. If you buy a phone from an individual that is selling their own phone, they should be able to share the MEID number with you. Sometimes you can read it off the back of the phone in the photos. Finally, check the sellers’s overall feedback rating and the comments to see if there are any reasons to avoid that seller.
In my limited experience, I have bought used phone’s on eBay and even Craigs List without issue. I have also bought iPhones directly from Apple and the other Tracfone brands and have never had a bad experience. I hope this helps.