How To Use An iPhone with Tracfone Wireless


Do you want to use an iPhone with Tracfone Wireless? Well you can and in this article I’ll explain what you need to know.

Tracfone Wireless offers affordable cellular service for customers with modest needs for a cell phone service. Many people would love to take advantages of all the benefits of using an iPhone without having to pay $600 or more per year for cell phone service. With Tracfone, you can have an iPhone or other smartphone with active service for as little as $125 per year or just under $11 per month. This a great option for someone that wants to use an iPhone but doesn’t talk on the phone much and plan to use your iPhone with Wi-Fi to for Internet Service.

If you want to use an iPhone with Tracfone you’ll have a choice to buy and iPhone directly from Tracfone or you can Bring Your Own iPhone to Tracfone.

Buying an iPhone from Tracfone

Tracfone sells as limited number of iPhone models. They usually do not offer the latest model iPhones instead opting to sell less expensive models from previous years. Sometimes you can get a really good deal on an iPhone directly from Tracfone, See my Tracfone Deals Page to see the latest deals and offers available, Tracfone Latest Deals and Promo Codes

Bring Your Own iPhone

Do you want to sign up for Tracfone and use it with your own iPhone? Well, you can and in this article I’ll explain what you need to know.

As of this time there is a long list of iPhone models that can be used with Tracfone including the iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone 11Pro, iPhone 11, iPhone SE (2nd Gen 2020) the iPhone XS Max, iPhone XS, iPhone XR, iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone SE, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c, and iPhone 5. Note that as of April 2019 I do not recommend the iPhone 4s, iPhone 4, and earlier models for use with Tracfone and these phones do not support 4G LTE networks.

When you sign up for Tracfone, you’ll have a choice you can buy an iPhone directly from Tracfone or you can Bring Your Own iPhone. Tracfone doesn’t have a wide selection of iPhones available but sometimes you can get a really good deal on an iPhone directly from Tracfone. Sometimes you can buy the same brand new iPhone for less from Tracfone than you could if you bought it directly from Apple and sometimes for less than you would pay for a refurbished or used iPhone online from Amazon, eBay, or Craigslist. Each month I post the latest Tracfone deals here, so check that out if you don’t already have an iPhone to use with Tracfone.

How Tracfone and Bring Your Own iPhone Works

Before trying to bring your own iPhone to Tracfone it’s important to understand how Tracfone works. Tracfone doesn’t have their own cellular network, instead they uses either AT&T’s, Verizon’s, or T-Mobile’s cellular towers. When you use Tracfone, your phone will be on one of these three networks. When you bring your own iPhone to Tracfone you’ll need to buy a Bring Your Own Phone SIM Kit in a retail store or online directly from Tracfone. If you already have your iPhone, you’ll need to buy or use the SIM Kit that is compatible with your phone. Most people that bring their iPhone to Tracfone bought that phone from their previous carrier which is most likely AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, or Sprint.

If your iPhone was from AT&T or T-Mobile it will work with the Tracfone AT&T or T-Mobile SIM respectively without a problem. If your iPhone is from Verizon, it needs to be eligible to use it with Tracfone’s Verizon SIM. To find out you’ll need to check the phone’s serial number on tracfone.com to see if it can be used. Verizon requires that the serial number of any phone that is activated to use their towers. (its a Verizon thing, same for Sprint, but not AT&T or T-Mobile). If your Verizon iPhone was reported lost or stolen you will not be able to activate it. If your Verizon iPhone is currently under contract on a payment plan it will not be eligible.

This works out well because if you are say an AT&T customer with an AT&T iPhone you can use it with Tracfone’s AT&T SIM. The iPhone is compatible with AT&T, AT&T should have service where you use your phone because you were an AT&T customer, and Tracfone most likely has coverage on the AT&T towers in the same area. The same for Verizon and T-Mobile. Where it gets a little tricky is if your iPhone came from one carrier but you want to use it on different towers with Tracfone. For example, you have an AT&T iPhone but want to use it with Tracfone’s Verizon towers.

Your iPhone Needs To Be Compatible With The Network Or Towers You want to use it with

Your iPhone needs to be compatible with the network or towers you want to use it with. That is, the cellular radios in your iPhone need to be compatible with the cellular technologies and radio frequencies that network uses. Some model iPhones that Apple sold are compatible with all four big cellular networks, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint. Some models are only compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile. For example, Apple made one model of the iPhone 6s that works with all four carriers. But they made two different models of the iPhone 7. One that works with AT&T and T-Mobile, the other for Verizon and Sprint (but also works with AT&T and T-Mobile..)

Locked, Unlocked, and SIM-Free iPhones

I get a number of questions about whether or not your iPhone can be locked or unlocked to use it with Tracfone. It depends. If your AT&T iPhone is locked you can still use it with Tracfone’s AT&T SIM card. Same for a T-Mobile SIM iPhone. Verizon iPhones are not locked but you need to check the serial number to make sure it can be used with Tracfone’s Verizon SIM. Ironically because Verizon iPhones are unlocked and compatible with the AT&T and T-Mobile networks you can use the phone with either Tracfone’s AT&T SIM or Tracfone’s T-Mobile SIM.

A locked iPhone is when your wireless carrier set up your phone to prevent it from being used with a SIM card from another wireless company. Sometimes wireless carriers do this to prevent you from taking a phone on a contract or payment plan and using it with another service before you have completed your payments. So even if your iPhone is compatible with another network, it won’t operate with another companies’ SIM card. Most carriers will unlock an iPhone for free after you have met their requirements in their unlocking policy, see Unlocking Your AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon or Sprint iPhone. If you are unsure whether your phone is locked or not you can borrow a SIM from a friends phone (that uses a different carrier) and try it in your phone. If you can make a call with it, the phone is unlocked.

If you want to buy a brand new iPhone that is unlocked and can be used on any of the four networks in the US, Apple sells what they call the “SIM-free” option of each model phone they sell. The phone is unlocked and can be activated on any service that uses the AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, or Sprint networks. No other retailer sells SIM-Free models, except for Best Buy that currently sells only the SIM-Free iPhone X.

New Customer

If you are a new customer signing up for Tracfone you’ll have a choice of keeping your current phone number or have Tracfone assign you a new one. If you choose to transfer your current home or cellular number to tracfone you’ll need to make check with Tracfone to make sure your number is eligible to be transferred. In addition to your phone number you’ll need to know your account number and pin for with your current phone company. Your account number may or may not be your phone number. Your account PIN is a password set on your account to prevent someone else from transferring your phone number without your permission. Note this isn’t the PIN code you may have set to unlokc your phone.

Existing Customers

If you are currently a Tracfone customer you can transfer your current phone number and existing balance of minutes, text, MBs, and service days to your new iPhone. Note that when you transfer service to a new phone your new phone may not be eligible for some plan features such as triple minute plans and one year service days add-ons. As of 2019 most tracfone smartphones are not eligible for such features.

Tracfone’s One Year Plan

Note that all Tracfone smartphone plans include a fixed amount of minutes for calls, messages for texts, megabytes (MBs) for data (internet), and service days. The $125 plan describes above comes with 365 days of service, and 1500 minutes of talk, 1500 text messages, and 1500 Mb of data (1,5GB). So while your account will remain active for one year if you use up your minutes, messages, or data you’ll need to buy more.

Tracfone’s Networks or Tower

Tracfone does not have their own cellular network. Instead they use AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile’s towers. If you buy an iPhone directly from Tracfone it will probabally use Verizon’s towers. Before you buy your phone, you can ask their customer service agents which towers the phone will use. Tell them the model phone you want to buy and the zip code where you want to use the phone.

If you are going to bring your own iPhone to Tracfone, you’ll have the choice of using their AT&T, Verizon, or T-mobile SIM card. Pick the network that works best in your area and one that your iPhone is compatible with. If you want to use their Verizon towers, you’ll need to make check the serial number of your phone with Tracfone to make sure it that it is eligible to be registered on their Verizon networks. Some model iPhones are compatible with more than one carrier. If your iPhone is locked to AT&T or T-Mobile it should still work with Tracfone’s AT&T or T-Mobile SIM respectively. If your iPhone is unlocked, you may have a choice of which network to use.

More Information

I updated this article for 2019 as I noticed that it was still popular. If you are interested in some of my earlier articles and videos about using the iPhone or another smartphone with Tracfone see the links below.
Tracfone Bring Your Own Smartphone SIM Activation Kit at Kmart and Walmart
Opening a Tracfone Bring Your Own Smartphone SIM Activation Kit

Choosing a Tracfone Network

Signing Up For Tracfone Bring Your Own Smartphone GSM LTE Network

Tracfone Bring Your Own Smartphone ATT GSM LTE Network Demo

SpeedTest Results for Tracfone’s ATT GSM LTE Network

Adding Data To My Tracfone Account On The iPhone 6

How Much Does Tracfone Data Cost?

Tracfone and Visual Voicemail On The iPhone 6

Looking Up the APN Settings For Your Tracfone Wireless Bring Your Own Smartphone Account

Strange Text Messages From Tracfone

Tracfone Bring Your Own Smartphone SIM Activation Kit At Walmart

Tracfone Bring Your Own Smartphone SIM Activation Kit From KMart

166 Comments

  1. Ben | | Reply

    Do I need to use data for texting on an iPhone se 2nd gen when using Tracfone service or can I have my data off and still be able to text on it?

  2. Charlotte | | Reply

    I want to use an iPhone 5 on a tracphone plan. The iPhone used to be used on a Verizon plan but I’m giving it to my daughter to use on a Tracfone plan. I’m wondering if it’s possible? Is there a Tracfone website I can go to set it up? I’m interested in a new phone number and a one year plan. Thanks for any help/advice!

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      The iPhone 5 is not the best choice for Tracfone at this time but it will work. You’d need to use their AT&T SIM card, but that Verizon iPhone 5 is only partially compatible with the iPhone 5. You will not get LTE. Also the iPhone 5 no longer gets software or security updates. That iPhone 5 is can no longer be used with the Verizon networks or Tracfone’s Verizon SIM. The article you commented on has more details and the links in the bottom are to articles and videos. Read through those for more Information,

  3. Ken | | Reply

    Its also that the MEID cannot be entered into the TracFone verifier.
    US Cellular will not convert over to Tracfone as the number does not work.
    I would like to use older phone. In fact I had an LG Phone 305C I would love to use, but Tracfone forced us to replace the LG phone with a newer one. This is because they feel I even need a data plan. Fact is I do not need a data plan, or 2G or anything. But there was no turning back. Now about all I can do with the LG phone is 911 or use a credit card to make a call.

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      if the iPhone is unlocked it should work with Tracfone’s AT&T or T-Mobile SIM. Check with US cellular to see if the phone is unlocked or borrow an AT&T or T-Mobile SIM from a friend and try it in your iPhone. If the phone works than it is unlocked.

      Tracfone customer’s using the Verizon towers because Verizon is shutting down their older CDMA network and all phones will need to support the new LTE and Voice over LTE technology. It’s not because they think you need a data plan.

  4. Richard | | Reply

    I’ve been reading that Total wireless iPhones can be activated on Tracfone. Is that true? TW website has iPhones not available on Tracfone and those that are on tracfone cost more.

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      Total Wireless, Tracfone, Straight Talk, Simple Mobile, and Net 10 are all Tracfone brands.

      In my experience, I’ve been able to move Tracfone AT&T BYOP SIM cards between all the phones. Tracfone T-Mobile SIMs however did not work. Tracfone Verizon SIMs did work when inserted into the phones. However, when you want to activate a Tracfone Verizon SIM you’ll need to enter the phone’s serial number (IMEI) on tracfone.com. When I tried this, I was unable to activate the phone. Other people have told me that they have called, Tracfone and have gotten them to activate the phones for them. I haven’t tried or verified this.

      This has been my experience in the past, your results may vary. Keep in mind that if you buy a phone from either carrier and use it with their service for 12 months they will unlock the phone for free. If you use the Total Wireless phone with Tracfone it may never qualify to be unlocked.

      Tracfone’s iPhone’s are more expensive because they make less money on their service plans compared to Total Wireless and the other tracfone brands. I wish they would offer the same selection of phones.

      If you decide to buy a phone for Tracfone or Total Wireless, see the latest discounts here.
      http://smartphonematters.com/tracfone-latest-deals
      http://smartphonematters.com/tracfone-latest-deals

  5. Leon D Riker | | Reply

    Interested in different iPhone models and their compatibility. Thank you.

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      What are you looking for that wasn’t covered in the article?

      • Leon D Riker | | Reply

        You said in your March 19, 2019, article, “At some point, I’ll post and article (sic) with more information about the different iPhone models and their compatibility. Leave reply below if you are interested in seeing that.” I am interested, and so I replied as requested.

        A specific question does follow an answer to which would be very much appreciated: I presently have an earlier TracFone iPhone SE. What will happen were I to purchase from Apple it’s new iPhone SE, unlocked, and transfer the SIM card from old phone to new?

        • Bob Thompson | | Reply

          Ok. Yes I did. I’d far easier for me to answer a specific question though. The new iPhone SE is compatible with any of the four networks that Tracfone uses. If you bought currentl SE from Tracfone, its’ likely using their Verizon towers. The correct way to switch is to order a SIM and activate the new phone on tracfone.com. At some point, they will ask you if you want a new number or to transfer in a number. Choose the later. Tracfone will recognize that you’re a current customer and transfer your number and service balance to the new phone and SIM. You can order a SIM for $1 on tracfone.com. If you buy the iPhone from Apple, that phone can be used with either the Tracfone ATT, Verizon, or T-Mobile SIM cards.

          Your phone will work if you just move the SIM, but it does cause problems sometimes. If someone tries to activate the older SE on tracfone it can screw stuff up because Tracfone still has that account registered to your account and number.

          A couple other things to note. If your phone currently gets triple minutes you may no longer have the option when transferring to the new phone .Same with the $50 one year service days add on. If those are important to you, load up before transferring service.

          Here are two videos you might like
          https://youtu.be/1g_MfS_PDzw
          https://youtu.be/ilW6F-dUmwY

          Tracfone currently is not selling the new SE, but they may add it at some point. Keep an eye on http://smartphonematters.com/tracfone-latest-deals for future deals.

          • Leon D Riker | |

            Thank you for the courtesy of your informative reply. You ask in your “$399 iPhone SE Unboxed (2nd Gen 2020)”‘ video whether the viewer will upgrade from an older iPhone to the new SE. That precisely what I plan to do – from a TracFone original SE transferring service to the new SE still using TracFone.

            Not having triple minutes nor a one year service days add-on, plus disallowing the older SE from being reactivated, would there still be any downside to moving the original SIM to the new SE? This, to me, is an important question. Might I cause any harm in simply trying the move?

            Thanks again for your above reply, and thanks for your anticipated, new reply.

          • Bob Thompson | |

            You will not harm your new iPhone.

            The downsides are less clear. In the past all phones on Verizon’s CDMA network had to have their MEID / IMEI registered to be activated. In the new world of Verizon uses LTE and SIM cards they still required this, but moving the SIM does work.

            Your current SIM is a few years old by now. Sometimes a newer SIM is required to get some network features. You can always just move your SIM, and if you find you have a problem transfer the service to the new Phone and SIM at that point. For years, I heard about so many problems about the Verizon towers from Tracfone brand customers (Straight Talk, Total Wireless, etc…) that made me reluctant to recommend just moving the SIM. That, and I can’t tell you how many times people would do this and pass the old phone to someone else only to have problems when someone else activated the old phone.

  6. Marilyn Bass | | Reply

    How do you know what iPhone will do the 3 times the mins. as my smart phone does now.

  7. Steve Rinsler | | Reply

    Update.

    I contacted Apple and the second level person I spoke with was VERY helpful. She got a person from Tracfone involved who actually managed to activate my unlocked, never used on Verizon phone to use TracFone’s Verizon service AND transferred the airtime, days and telephone number from the old phone.

    So, the unlocked version can be DIRECTLY brought to Tracfone and used with a Verizon compatible sim, without ever being on Verizon itself.

    • Steve Rinsler | | Reply

      Uh my original comment from yesterday never got posted, I see.

      That detailed the hours I dealt with Tracfone staff, first by phone and then chat without success.

      The chat person said that an unlocked phone that hadn’t been used first on Verizon would not work on Tracfone using a Tracfone Verizon compatible sim.

      Obviously, (thankfully) he was wrong.

      • Bob Thompson | | Reply

        Yes. That is incorrect. The SIM free and unlocked iPhone should always qualify for activation with Tracfone’s Verizon towers

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      Impressive that you got both companies to collaborate. It’s not clear why in a small percentage of cases an unlocked Verizon compatible phone comes back as not eligible for activation. It does happen. Glad you got it fixed.

  8. Molly | | Reply

    This stuff is fabulous!!! Can’t thank you enough. Would love to see more info on the best network w different models… THAN YOU!!

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      The best network is going to be the one with coverage where you use your phone. That is going to be different for you and me unless you live in Boston metro. As far as the phone. The iPhone 11 will have the best support for the AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile towers with Tracfone. Some of the early model iPhones have two different verisions, one that works with Verizon, Sprint, AT&T or T-Mobile and other that only works with AT&T and T-Mobile. For iPhone, the bigger issue will be how much longer the older models continue to get updates from Apple.

  9. Kenneth Yufer | | Reply

    I am 81 and getting first phone. It will be unlocked iphone. I have no cell signal where i live in WV. Will use wifi mostly.

    • Bob Thompson | | Reply

      If you are buying an unlocked iPhone and have WiFi at home. I’d recommend using a service that offers Wi-Fi calling. You’d br able to call and text when at home using WiFi. Any idea if AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile work in the other places you go that do have signal?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *