The Women Who Money Team and their family members use a variety of cell phone carriers. We’ve researched and used MVNO’s (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) and some of us still contract with the “Big 4” services (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint.)
We hope highlighting our experiences with these services will help you make better decisions about what cell service is best for you and your family!
If there is a cell phone carrier you’d like us to review, please contact us or leave a note in the comments. We’d be happy to answer any questions you have!
Today’s review comes from Vicki, co-founder of Women Who Money and founder of Make Smarter Decisions. She currently has five phones under two different plans. Four phones on Total Wireless and a business line on Republic Wireless.
The Shift from Verizon to MVNO’s
About seven years ago, I left Verizon and started using MVNO cell services. I’ve tried AirVoice Wireless (AT&T), Republic Wireless (Sprint/T-Mobile), Project FI (Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular), and Total Wireless (Verizon).
And my kids were on Straight Talk Wireless (CDMA – Verizon) for five years before moving onto our current family plan on Total Wireless.
You might wonder why I’ve moved from carrier to carrier so often! And the answer is easy. To save money and get the best service I could at a given time! I switched carriers based on where I was working, where we were traveling, and on what service best met my cellular needs.
These are all no-contract carriers, and you can port your phone number in and out to shop for different plans. My advice? Don’t let customer service at the “Big 4” scare you from trying some of these great low-cost plans if it makes sense for you.
We’ve had good-to-great service most of the time, and we’ve also dealt with a few problems. But the issues were minor compared to the thousands of dollars we’ve saved!
Total Wireless Review After 8 Months of Use
Today I’ll share how we get Verizon service on four phones while sharing 25 GB of data for $104/month using Total Wireless! That’s about half of what we were paying last year when our family’s cell service was split between two different MVNO’s.
Background: We own the four phones we use on Total Wireless, and we chose the Bring Your Own Phone plan. We bought four Total Wireless SIM cards at our local Best Buy for $1 each. The clerk laughed and said it was the smallest charge for four items that he’d ever seen while working at Best Buy!
My kids both have iPhones, and my husband and I use Nexus 6 phones. We bought the Nexus 6 phones new (but they are older models), and we bought the iPhones used. None of us have the “newest” version phone available. The Nexus phones come unlocked, and the iPhones were both unlocked as well.
According to their website, you need a Verizon-compatible phone or an unlocked CDMA phone to use Total Wireless. You can check the compatibility of your phone on their website too.
I started with Total Wireless service back in September. We then moved my husband and kids onto Total Wireless after I had 3 months of service with no issues at all.
The kids were both on Straight Talk (CDMA) using Verizon towers. They didn’t even need to change SIM cards when I moved them to Total Wireless because they are related (Wal-Mart) brands. My husband moved from AirVoice Wireless.
We all ported our phone numbers into Total Wireless with no issues. We even received text messages keeping us updated on the process.
The Plans They Offer:
All of their plans are no contract, 30-day service plans. You can add service online, purchase refill cards in stores, or sign up for auto-refill on their website.
One Line Options
Unlimited Talk/Text only – $23.70+tax with auto-refill ($25 without)
Unlimited Talk/Test with 5 GB data – $33.20+tax with auto-refill ($35 without)
Shared Plans – With Up to 4G LTE Speeds
Two Lines – Unlimited Talk/Text with 15 GB shared Data – $57.00+tax with auto-refill ($60 without)
Three Lines – Unlimited Talk/Text with 20 GB shared Data – $80.70+tax with auto-refill ($85 without)
Four Lines – Unlimited Talk/Text with 25 GB shared Data – $95.00+tax with auto-refill ($100 without)
Add-On Data – 5GB for $10+ tax
- Does not expire with Active Service
- Usage starts after all your active plan data is consumed
- Unused data will roll over month-to-month with Active Service
- You can purchase as many as needed
Global Calling – $10+tax (price varies per call)
- Add to any Service Plan
- Balance carries to next month of service
- Only for calls originating from the U.S.
Calling and Texting:
We’ve had no trouble at all with dropped calls or missed text messages. We do get some annoying texts at the end of the month that say service is ending (even though we are on auto-refill) but it doesn’t happen every month. The texts have an option to stop them from being sent, and that seems to work most of the time.
No issues with download speeds either, but we aren’t heavy data users. According to their customer service, Total’s LTE data download speeds average around 5 megabits per second but could be more.
Customers on Verizon’s name-brand service can get LTE data download speeds above 20 Mbps, depending on the quality of the connection. But this hasn’t bothered us at all, and neither of my college-age kids has complained about it either. It may make a big difference to you depending on your needs.
Although it is “not allowed” by their service, we are able to use our phones as hotspots to connect our laptops and other devices. This is a MUST feature for us because I do a lot of work as we travel.
We are so happy with Total Wireless service that we haven’t even hooked up internet service in our new house yet. We just buy extra data when we need it and use Total Wireless instead. Our kids use Wi-FI at college, so there is no need for home internet right now!
If we are not able to do this in the future, we will have to revisit whether we will stay with their service. We could also buy a hotspot from Total Wireless and get a service plan for the hotspot.
Just know this could be a problem in the future, but many report using their phones as hotspots with no issue. Total Wireless could send you a warning or terminate service if you do things against their terms and conditions.
The Total Wireless coverage map looks just like the Verizon map. You can see it here.
I have called into Customer Service with a few questions, and I have used the Chat feature online twice. I have never had to wait for either service. I could understand the representative, and they were able to answer the questions I had. This has been much better customer service than we experienced on other MVNO’s used in the past.
I know there are horror stories about Total Wireless (and most of the MVNO’s) on the internet. But that just hasn’t been our experience. We also know other people who use Total Wireless, and they’ve also had good experiences.
One friend had to call back Customer Service twice over an issue, but it was resolved. This can happen on the “Big 4” carriers too. We just expect we may encounter trouble at some point and prepare for that. But we’re also saving thousands of dollars and understand that may come with some glitches in service.
If you travel internationally, you cannot use Total Wireless service. You would need to buy a local low-cost SIM in the country you are visiting. This doesn’t bother us, and we’ll make due when we plan to travel. You can also consider using apps over Wi-Fi to communicate depending on your travel plans.
Overall Thoughts On Total Wireless:
We are pleased with the four-line shared plan on auto-refill, and our bill is $104/month (because of our high New York State taxes!) We all get unlimited talk and text, and we share 25 GB of data between four phones. We buy more data online when we need it (at $10+tax/5 GB) because we currently do not have home internet service.
If you have questions about Total Wireless or about our experience with it, please contact us directly or add them to the comments below. If you want to support the Women Who Money website, you can use our affiliate link for Total Wireless too. It won’t cost you any more, and it will help support our website and our ability to answer more money questions!