By Adam Jusko, ProudMoney.com, adam@proudmoney.com


Walmart offers a discount cell phone plan called Walmart Family Mobile that is priced for those who want reliable mobile service without a contract. These are month-to-month plans, so you can stop at any time.

The Plans

The MyFamilyMobile.com site shows that Walmart’s offerings include 4 “unlimited” monthly plans, with costs as low as $24.88. How can you have four different prices on four different plans that all allow unlimited talk, text, and data? It’s all about the speed. At the lowest end, you’ll get unlimited everything, but only the first 1GB of your transmissions will be at 4G LTE speed. After that, you drop to 2G. And if you don’t think you’ll notice the difference, you’re kidding yourself. So, if you have service elsewhere now, look at your past spending patterns to see how much data you’ve been using. The $29.88 plan from Walmart is only $5 more but gives you 3GB at that 4G LTE speed, and that might be plenty for you, though you have other higher-priced options as well.

You can add additional lines and get $5 knocked off the monthly cost for each additional line. For example, if you choose the $29.88 plan for the first line, the price on any additional lines would be $24.88.

The Network

Walmart Family Mobile uses the T-Mobile cell network, so you will have good coverage in most areas. However, there are spots in the U.S. that aren’t covered, especially in rural areas, so check the T-Mobile coverage map.

The Phones

In terms of phones, you have a limited selection of reasonably-priced models if you buy from Walmart, but you may be able to bring an existing phone if you have one. But you may not. Here’s why: Walmart Family Mobile phones are GSM technology, which some other carriers use as well. But some phone carriers use CDMA, which is not compatible with Walmart’s offering. Specifically, Walmart’s plan says “You will need a T-Mobile-compatible phone or an unlocked GSM phone that operates at 1900 MHz frequency (Band 2). For LTE service, Bands 2 and 4 are required, or in some areas, Band 12.”

If your current phone has a SIM card, you should be good to go. But you’ll need to get a SIM Activation Kit either at a Walmart store or online. (Note that you can keep your old phone number or get a new one.)

The Customer Service

Walmart Family Mobile is operated on the customer service level by TracFone, a company that offers its own branded cell services and also operates other services, including Straight Talk, Net10, and more. (You’ll see the Walmart logo all over the MyFamilyMobile site, but note the “TracFone Wireless” listed in small type at the bottom of each page.) In many ways, you get what you pay for with TracFone. In our experience, its customer service can be maddening. Be prepared for frustration if you have to get a customer service person on the phone to help you.

The Bottom Line

Walmart Family Mobile makes sense for people who want the basics of mobile phone ownership and service, without being locked in to pricey contracts and/or pricey phones. Being on the T-Mobile network means you should have good coverage in most areas. The fact that TracFone is delivering the customer service is really the only downside. Happily, that won’t affect your day-to-day satisfaction with the service, even if it could cause small headaches when problems arise.