I thought I'd share my experience with getting a Tracfone-branded phone unlocked, and info that I've gleaned elsewhere.
The possibility of getting Tracfone-branded devices unlocked is pretty new, and details on what works & what doesn't are mostly through anecdotal reports, rather than a clear set of statements from Tracfone.
[i]What Tracfone officially requires:
Customers must request handset unlocking. Customers must have had their locked device activated on TracFone service for no fewer than 12 months, redeemed air time cards in no fewer than 12 months, and not have had their telephone number recycled or ported. Customers must request this interim unlocking solution while their service is active or within 60 days after their active service days expire. This 60-day grace period applies even if the customer's telephone number was recycled or ported. Customers must currently own a TracFone branded handset model launched on TracFone's service after February 11, 2014 or activated with TracFone's service after February 11, 2015.[/i]
There's lots of grey area in those requirements!
My timeline: I had an active Tracfone line for a number of years, with existiingg units and service time. Just over a year ago, I transferred my service to a new phone, an LG Fiesta 2 purchased via Tracfone's Ebay store, that came bundled with a year of service and units. For grins, I had checked the phone a couple of times for unlocking during the year, and it was judged not yet unlockable, as anticipated. A few days after the one-year anniversary, I tried the unlock request again, and it went through just fine. My Fiesta 2 was a relatively uncommon (for Tracfone) T-Mobile-network device-- I've tested it with Mint Mobile and FreedomPop (AT&T data) SIMs, and both work fine, so it is truly unlocked.
My current understanding of what's really required to unlock a Tracfone, and what you can do with it after unlocking. (Subject to changes, correction, better reports, etc.):
Tracfone will only unlock Tracfone-branded phones. (Including Simple Moble Total, etc. if you have customer service re-brand them to Tracfone at initial activation). They will not unlock your BYOD phone, regardless of the circumstances.) [EDIT TO CLARIFY: they will not unlock a phone using a BYOD SIM, regardless of circumstances, either-- so a Tracfone-branded devices running on a BYOD SIM cannot be unlocked..]
Time period: 12 months: The phone has to be active with it's registered Tracfone IMEI/MEID & associated SIM card for the 12 months. Tracfone links the 2 together, and as far as Tracfone is concerned, a particular phone is 'active' on the network as long as it's issued SIM card is active, whether or not it's still in the same device. (By anecdotal reports from others.)
Paid Service for those 12 months: If you already have accumulated service time before you start using a phone you hope to unlock, the current 'general wisdom' is it does not count towards unlocking that phone-- it would have counted for the phone that was active when you added the service time. There have been varying reports on whether or not 'bundled' airtime that comes with a phone counts towards unlocking: in my case, it definitely did. I've seen other reports that worked the same, and some credible reports that the phone did not qualify for unlocking with only the bundled airtime applied. If I was rejected under those circumstances, I'd file FCC and Better Business Bureau complaints. (Since Tracfone is under a settlement with the FCC regarding not honoring their commitments to unlock customer phones, I think Tracfone would adjust quickly when the FCC forwards the complaint to them.)
You do have to request the unlock-- it won't happen automatically. You can do it online or by phone, details here:
I understand that the exact process for unlocking may vary by phone manufacturer: in my instance, the approval & directions for entering codes to unlock the phone came almost immediately. I believe Tracfone iPhones are unlocked through the Apple servers after being submitted by Tracfone.
Caveats: I've seen several reports on Tracfone Verizon-based phones that have been unlocked. It appears there might be a catch in that the IMEIs of Tracfone verizon network devices are not included in the Verizon 'whitelist' database. This likely means that you won't be able to use an unlocked Tracfone to activate a new Verizon-network account, even on an MVNO, but you can probably SIM-swap from an already active device on another MVNO into the unlocked Tracfone.
I am of the opinion that the best candidates for unlocking on Tracfone are bundled phones that are GSM compatible-- at least the GSM part is fully unlocked. Tracfone models ending in DL are multi-carrier (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile), and would be great candidates. (Most of the current Moto and Alcatel models are multi-carrier DL versions, as are some LG devices.)
Models ending in BL are AT&T/T-mobile compatible, so they would also be good candidates, but these are not common, especially with bundled airtime.
Models ending in VL are Verizon-network only, including many of the LG Tracfones. These would be the worst choice as unlocking candidates, unless you are comfortable with SIM-swapping as a route for later use, or can confirm that the device has the frequency bands necessary to support use on AT&T or T-Mobile. (Info about frequency band capabilities can be difficult to source on Tracfone devices, and they are often custom variants of manufacturer models:.)