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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.
Then 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.
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?
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…
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.
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.
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!
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.
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…
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!!