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Total Wireless... Same Verizon Network, Less $$$I debated quite a bit about writing this post.  What makes a post on Total Wireless as a cell phone provider any better than the cable-cutting posts that you see all over the place?

The last thing I want to do to you as my readers is provide a disservice by focusing too much on the small side of savings.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is something that you need to be familiar with.  And the reason why is because this small change can save you a ton of dough without a difference in service.

Interested?  You should be.  I switched over a year ago and I’m just speaking from experience.  I wish I had done this years ago.

Mrs. R2R and I were on a family plan with Verizon for well over a decade.  Here in northeast Ohio, there was no reason to go anywhere else because Verizon covered the whole area with very little in dead spots.

A lot has changed since then and now the other big carriers (T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T) offer some great coverage here as well.  The other thing that changed is the price, which continued to grow.  It’s crazy how much we spend on our cell phone plans every month.

So a little over a year ago, I decided to dig into these “other” small-time carriers.  If you’re not familiar, these alternative carriers are called mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs).

All that means is that these companies don’t own the infrastructure providing you the service.  They lease the lines from the big carriers out there and resell the service to you… at a much cheaper price.

In a nutshell, you’re getting the same cell service for less money.  Sounds too good to be true, right?  It’s not – it’s completely legit and works well.

And these aren’t just tiny companies out there doing this.  There’s a little company called Google that runs their own MVNO called Project Fi that piggybacks off Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Three.  In fact, this is the plan I moved my mom onto a while back.

 

Total Wireless

Total Wireless... Same Verizon Network, Less $$$ - Total WirelessThen there’s Total Wireless.  This is a brand of the TracFone Wireless company.  They’re an MVNO that uses the Verizon network.

This one struck me as a possible replacement for Verizon and I dug into them quite a bit.  I talked to Mrs. R2R about the idea of switching.  She was a little apprehensive at first but was willing to give it a shot.

I think the big selling point was that nothing should change except our price.

We’re now paying $61.99 (including tax) per month for phone service for the both of us with Total Wireless.  The plan gives us unlimited minutes, unlimited text messages, and 15GB of shared data.

Just to compare, an 8GB plan at Verizon (just over half of what we’re getting with Total Wireless), would cost us $70 each.  In other words, it would run us $140 before taxes for similar service with much less data.

So we’re saving over $80 per month for something that’s no different for us than before.  That’s close to $1,000 a year!

If you think I’m here to tell you about all kinds of reasons that Total Wireless does better than the big carriers, you’re mistaken.

The big reason why I’m not going to tell you that is because nothing really changed when we switched.

 

How did the transition go?

At the time of our switch to Total Wireless, my wife and I each had a Samsung Galaxy S5 phone.  We had bought them through Verizon so they were loaded with all that wonderful Verizon bloatware.  The phones were also paid off.

Because they were Verizon-branded, I was a little uneasy that maybe it would cause us some issues moving them to a new provider.  However, there were two things that made me feel a little more confident:

  • Verizon had made a deal with the government years ago to keep all their LTE phones unlocked in exchange for some wireless spectrum they wanted to buy.  Unlocked means you can move the phone to a different carrier.  So I knew the phones were already unlocked.  Be aware that Verizon’s been shady lately and trying to start locking their phones again… claiming for “customer protection.”  Jerks.  If that happens though, they are still required by law to unlock the phones if requested by you (assuming your phone is paid off).
  • You can check your phone’s IMEI/MEID/serial number to see if it’s compatible with their network.  Ours were.  If you “Bring Your Own Phone”, it needs to be able to operate on the Verizon network.  In other words, it needs to be CDMA compatible.

Total Wireless... Same Verizon Network, Less $$$ - How did the transition go?

So I went to Walmart and bought two of the Total Wireless Bring Your Own Phone SIM Kits.  And boy were they expensive – $0.99… each!  This was not in the budget, but I somehow came up with the two bucks for the kits.

While I was there, I also picked up a Total Wireless data plan for two lines.  This plan has changed since we bought it, but as of this writing, it’s now the $60 Shared Data Family Plan w/15GB.

I went home, popped in the new SIM card into my phone and… nothing.  It didn’t work.  What a letdown.

So I called Total Wireless, they walked me through the activation, and we were tested and done within ten minutes.

And that’s it.  That’s the highlight of the story!

Nothing changed on my phone – you don’t lose any of your apps or anything.  It was basically like a reboot of the phone and done.

My number stayed the same.  Incoming and outgoing phone calls and text messages were the same.

Just to make this clear in case it’s not already, nothing really changed except my price.

I tested it for a few days just to make sure everything was good-to-go and then I did the same to Mrs. R2R’s phone.

So one visit to Walmart (which I could have done online) and about 15 minutes on each phone and we’re saving loads of money each month.  Crazy, right?

Since then, I bought an unlocked Samsung Galaxy S8 phone on Black Friday.  I swapped out the SIM card in the new phone and just continued where I left off.  How awesome is that?!

 

So what is actually different with Total Wireless?

Total Wireless... Same Verizon Network, Less $$$ - So what is actually different with Total Wireless?Like I said, the service is exactly the same for us.  Reception is the same as it was when we were with Verizon – and it should be since we’re using the same infrastructure.

But technically, there are a few small differences…

 

Pre-paid

One difference is that it’s a pre-paid plan.  That means instead of paying for your service once the month is over, you pay in advance.

On the plus side, there’s no long-term contract.  You pay for the month and that’s it.  If you want to go elsewhere, you’re not locked in at all.  Not happy with Total Wireless, switch to another MVNO at the drop of a hat.

The downside to the pre-paid plan is that if you run out of data, you’re out until the end of the month.  There’s no “overage” – when it’s gone, it’s gone.  And if you’re not in a place to add more, you’re up a creek.

Running out of 15GB of data isn’t something we should ever have a problem with (we use about 1 to 2GB a month).  However, Total Wireless has your back if that’s a worry of yours.  You can buy an extra 5GB of data for $10 that can be used if you ever hit your cap and the extra data is rolled over month-to-month.

 

Customer service

When you use an MVNO, the customer service and billing is handled by the MVNO and not by the backbone provider.  In this case, that means Verizon only provides the infrastructure – you work with Total Wireless for customer service issues.

I talked to their customer service/tech support a couple times as we made the transition and everything went well.  They were as helpful as I could hope for and everything went smooth.

Since then, I’ve never needed to contact them so I can’t tell you if they’re still as good as they were a year ago.

 

Billing

Total Wireless handles the billing for your account.  This is pretty simple.  You have an account and can pay every month manually if you want.

Or they shave a few bucks off if you set it to auto-renew and automatically pay with a credit card every month – still no contract.  I actually like this better since I don’t have a bill every month – they just send me an email when the monthly renewal is happening… love it!

 

Advanced features

One of the things that no longer worked on our S5 phones were the “advanced features” that Verizon added to the phones.  In this case, that was Verizon’s WiFi calling and HD voice calls (VoLTE).

At the time, there weren’t a lot of phones that supported VoLTE so that didn’t make a difference to us.  And as far as WiFi calling goes, we always used Google Hangouts whenever we wanted to do video chatting anyway.  Skype is another one that does the same thing… they’re a dime a dozen now.

In other words, these features that are specific to Verizon get lost in the transition, but I would imagine that very few people would ever miss them.

 

Different widget

Yeah, I’m going there.  I told you I’d tell you the differences and this is the smallest difference out there.

Instead of using Verizon’s app and widget to manage your data, you can download and use the one from Total Wireless.

Not much else I can say on this – it works well and the widget shows you your remaining data for the month.  The app lets you do some basic account management.

Whoop dee doo.


So why is Total Wireless better than the big cell phone carriers?  One big reason…

Money.

I wouldn’t recommend if I didn’t use them myself and feel they present a smart way for you to save money.  I strongly encourage you to look at switching over to Total Wireless if you’re on Verizon (and your phone is paid off).

Just like any other provider, there are different options depending on your needs…

You need this for the Bring Your Own Phone (BYOP) program:

  • Total Wireless Bring Your Own Phone SIM Kit – Verizon CDMA Compatible

One month’s service for 1 line:

  • Total Wireless $25 Unlimited Talk and SMS (No Data) 1 Line, 30 Service Days (Email Delivery)
  • Total Wireless $35 30 Day Plan – Unlimited Talk and Text with 6GB of High Speed Data (Email Delivery)

One month’s service for 2 lines:

  • Total Wireless $60 Shared* Data Family Plan w 15GB for up to 2 lines (Email Delivery)

One month’s service for 3 lines:

  • Total Wireless $85 Shared* Data Family Plan w 20GB for up to 3 lines (Email Delivery)

One month’s service for 4 lines:

  • Total Wireless $100 Shared* Data Family Plan w 25GB for up to 4 lines (Email Delivery)

Extra carryover data (optional):

  • Total Wireless Data Card $10 3GB, 0 Service Days (Email Delivery)

All the above options can be found here: Total Wireless – Walmart.  Please note, this is an affiliate link.  Any purchases will send a small amount of money my way (at no extra cost to you).

You can either Bring Your Own Phone (if it’s compatible), buy a phone through Total Wireless, or buy an unlocked phone (just check compatibility first!).  The unlocked Galaxy S8 phone I bought was through Best Buy, but would have been just fine if it was from Amazon or any other retailer.


I can’t really think of a good reason not to move over if you’re currently on Verizon and your phone is paid off.

If you’re not using Verizon and Total Wireless isn’t a good match for you, don’t just bail.  Take the time to dig into some of the other MVNOs out there.  The potential to save a ton of money with little to no effort or difference is crazy.

Some of the others popular MVNOs include:

  • Straight Talk (owned by TracFone as well)
  • Republic Wireless (uses a combination of WiFi calling along with Sprint and T-Mobile lines) – very inexpensive
  • Project Fi (and that’s not Financial Independence!) – this is Google and it’s truly awesome, but only a few select phones are eligible to use
  • Boost Mobile (owned by Sprint)
  • MetroPCS (owned by T-Mobile)
  • Cricket Wireless (owned by AT&T)

 

Have you switched over to an MVNO like Total Wireless or considered doing so?

 

Thanks for reading!!

— Jim

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Total Wireless… Same Verizon Network, Less $$$
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18 thoughts on “Total Wireless… Same Verizon Network, Less $$$

  • June 5, 2018 at 7:22 am
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    Are iPhones compatible with MVNOs? Otherwise it sounds like a nobrainer! Thanks for the info

    Reply
    • June 5, 2018 at 8:03 am
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      Good question, Kristin! We’re an Android family 🙂 but I did some digging around. Total Wireless does sell the iPhone so that’s a good sign. I can’t see why there would be any difference, but if you’re talking about bringing an existing Verizon iPhone over, type in the IMEI/MEID/serial number at their compatibility checker and see what it comes back with. If you could reply back with the results that could be helpful to others as well.

      — Jim

      Reply
  • June 5, 2018 at 8:05 am
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    To Kristin above – my kids are on Total Wireless with us (we have the four phone plan) and they have iPhones! We LOVE Total Wireless too and I’ve written about it as well on our site – WomenWhoMoney.com (if you want another honest review.) Great job, Jim! We don’t even have home internet. We just buy extra GB from Total and use a phone as a hotspot!

    Reply
    • June 5, 2018 at 9:19 am
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      Thanks for the info on the iPhones, Vicki! I figured we’d have to be good there, but I didn’t want to pass along any misinformation. That’s a smart idea on doing the hotspot – I’d guess you guys are saving even more money by going that route.

      — Jim

      Reply
  • June 5, 2018 at 10:11 am
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    Very cool. It’s great that you saved some money and retained the same service. That’s a great way to save. We use Republic Wireless and it works well for us.

    Reply
    • June 5, 2018 at 9:30 pm
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      I know quite a number of folks on Republic and I’ve heard only good things about it. We made the step to Total Wireless to start with since it was a smaller step since it kept us on Verizon. If we weren’t planning our move to Panama in the near future, I would bet Republic would be a possible next jump.

      — Jim

      Reply
  • June 6, 2018 at 10:51 am
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    we do the same on Cricket Wireless in our household. Three lines just short of $100.
    I can’t believe we paid AT&T prices for over a decade. I feel robbed

    Reply
    • June 6, 2018 at 6:19 pm
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      Haha, I don’t even want to think about how much we spent in the past. It’s crazy how much money you can save just by understanding that the MVNOs work just as well as the big guys out there.

      — Jim

      Reply
  • June 8, 2018 at 12:10 pm
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    I’ve been pounding the MVNO drum for a LONG time, but it doesn’t seem like most people are interested Jim. It’s not about the service (I think), it’s about the phone.

    They *want* to have the latest cool phones that the Verizon’s, AT&T, and T Mobile’s of the world sell. It’s another modern status symbol to have that cool new phone.

    Yes, you can go out and buy an unlocked version of the latest phone off Amazon for big $$, but I honestly think people prefer paying a higher monthly cost instead of that big upfront phone cost.

    Reply
    • June 8, 2018 at 2:05 pm
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      That’s a good point, Mr. Tako, and I personally love new gadgets like the latest phone (I’m working on that problem, though!). 😉 It took everything I had in me to get the Galaxy S8 right before the S9 came out. Yeah, I have issues.

      The good news is that some of the MVNOs (like Total Wireless) recognize this and will let you buy a phone through them and spread the payments out over 24 months. If you do the math on it though, you’ll find that you’re paying more than it would be outright. But if you feel you need a flagship phone and can’t afford to pay it outright, it’s an option. Personally, I think that if you can’t afford a fancy phone outright though, then you’re looking at the wrong phone.

      I so agree that people just don’t seem interested regardless. It’s like they think it’s not as good or reliable as going through a regular provider, which as you know, is far from the truth.

      — Jim

      Reply
  • July 10, 2018 at 4:41 pm
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    Maybe off the MVNO topic, but my wife and I are on the T-Mobile 55+ plan. Unlimited talk, text, & data. Works in Mexico & Canada at no extra charge too.

    See you in CLE for your talk on Thursday!!!

    Reply
    • July 11, 2018 at 8:35 am
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      MVNO or no MVNO – finding a better price than the standard networks offer counts as a hug win in my book!

      — Jim

      Reply
  • July 26, 2018 at 7:26 pm
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    Great post with lots of details. Um, “This was not in the budget, but I somehow came up with the two bucks for the kits.” Lol, Jim!

    Reply
    • July 27, 2018 at 8:39 am
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      Haha, two bucks is two bucks! That cost me an extra 7 minutes of work before I was able to reach FI! 😉

      — Jim

      Reply
  • October 9, 2018 at 7:26 pm
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    Verizon is shutting down it’s cdma in 2019 for good they informed us. We are looking at TW also.

    Reply
    • October 10, 2018 at 4:48 pm
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      I heard that Verizon would be shutting down CDMA, but didn’t realize it would be happening next year – glad to hear that though. If you’re happy with Verizon, you’ll be happy with TW – nothing really changes.

      — Jim

      Reply
  • October 9, 2018 at 8:16 pm
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    Yes Verizon is paving the way for 5G, we too were informed by the company rep CDMA is on the way out and will be gone by the end of 2019 also. Is Total Wireless LTE?, If so, CDMA should not be an issue. We are Verizon prepaid customers. Great post thank you. I have in the past had TW imei checker say a phone is compatible, gotten a Sim and then discovered the TW “imei checker-compatability ” was wrong, to make long story short. Just a FYI.

    Reply
    • October 10, 2018 at 4:51 pm
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      I’m really excited about 5G – not even so much for phones, but how it’s going to provide some competition to cable companies for Internet at home and crush their monopolies. Wow, that sucks on the IMEI checker giving you wrong info.

      — Jim

      Reply

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