Total Wireless is a brand under TracFone Wireless. It operates on the Verizon network as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), allowing them to provide more affordable rates while “piggy-backing” off the larger Mobile Network Operator (MNO).
How does Total Wireless do this? They purchase minutes, text messages, and data at wholesale from Big Red, then resell them to customers.
But a big carrier like Verizon is always going to prioritize its direct customers over any MVNO’s — so how much performance do you lose with the budget-friendly Total Wireless? Are those savings worth it? Read on to find out in our Total Wireless review.
Prepaid plans + pricing
Prepaid plans and pricing
|Plans||Number of lines||Pricing||View plans|
|Unlimited Talk & Text only||1||$23.70/month*||View plans|
|Extended plan - 15GB||1||$90 per 90 service days||View plans|
|15GB (shared data)||2||$57/month*||View plans|
|20GB (shared data)||3||$80.70/month*||View plans|
*Price with auto-refill
All of Total Wireless’s plans give you the essentials: calls, texting, and browsing. Nothing more, nothing less.
All of Total Wireless’s plans operate on a limited number of days, with an end-of-service period. That means primarily 30 days, but there is a 90-day extended plan. So if you’re looking for a quick-fix Verizon proxy without the hassle of long registrations or high prices — look no further.
Total Wireless offers clean, low prices where many other carriers’ prepaid plans force you to pay more for the same or less. For example, Total’s 5GB plan is $33.20 for 30 days, while MetroPCS charges $40/month for the same and Boost Mobile charges $35/month for 2GB less.
But that better price tag comes at a cost: very few features. Sure, you get unlimited talk and text across the board, but Total Wireless doesn’t offer any unlimited data plans. Both MetroPCS and Boost Mobile do, as does Straight Talk.
Plus, Total Wireless forgoes a mobile hotspot, unlimited music streaming, and caller ID. Once again, MetroPCS and Boost Mobile offer these features in ¾ of their plans, or for a minor extra fee. Total Wireless leaves you high and dry when it comes to additional features.
Finally, though this may not be a factor for all, is the fact that Total’s plans only go up to 4 lines — MAX. After that, you need to start a new account for any additional lines.
But while features fall flat, Total comes through with data and call add-ons. For just $10 extra, you can tack on 5GB of data; for an additional $10, you get global calling. And for each of these extras you don’t have to worry about using them within a set length of time – they rollover forever, so long as you maintain service.
Phones + devices
|Apple||iPhone SE, iPhone 6-8 standard and plus; iPhone XR, iPhone XS, etc.**|
|Samsung||Samsung Galaxy J7, Samsung Galaxy J3, Samsung Galaxy Note8, Samsung Galaxy S9, S9+, Samsung Galaxy Note9, S10 and S10+, S10E, S8, etc.**|
|LG||LG Rebel 4, LG Premier Pro LTE, etc.**|
|Motorola||Moto G6, Moto E5, etc.*|
**Not a complete list, varies by location.
Setting up service with Total Wireless is easy. They give you 3 options: a Total Wireless phone, BYOD, or a Total Wireless hotspot. You can easily buy a CDMA SIM kit and device plan at most major retailers, like Best Buy or Walmart, as well as on totalwireless.com.
Just pop the SIM card into a compatible device, get your new phone number, and you’re activated in 10 minutes or so. If you’re porting your number in, it can take anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 days to cross over.
Coverage + performance
Total Wireless, as an MVNO, uses Verizon Wireless’s network of cell towers to deliver service. Verizon is the #1 mobile phone network in the U.S., so that’s great news for Total Wireless users.
What’s not as great, however, is that – as an MVNO – Total Wireless customers will play second-fiddle to Verizon customers. As in, your data speeds are more likely to be throttled when the network gets congested.
But, as alluded to earlier, Verizon has been known to slow down MVNOs using their network in favor of their customers. So you may not enjoy the same swift speed as Verizon customers.
But things are looking up: Verizon used to limit MVNOs to 5Mbps download and 2Mbps upload speeds, but they removed that restriction in 2017. And even when those restrictions were in place, websites still loaded pretty quickly, and it was possible to stream both SD and HD video without many issues. That includes Netflix content and streaming audio.
But, if all you need is a network for calling and texting that won’t matter to you too much – you’ll have a signal just about anywhere you go.
By the way, a caveat to those 4G LTE speeds – you may not actually have them. That’s right, Total Wireless’s website says “up to 4G LTE speeds,” which means in some areas you might only get 3G or – “gasp!” – 2G LTE speeds.
Do us a favor and run a quick Google search for “Total Wireless customer reviews.” We’ll wait.
Back? Great. Most reviewers from places like bestbuy.com love their Total Wireless service, giving 4-5 star reviews that rave about how great Total is for the “occasional data user.”
However, multiple reviewers degrade the customer service phone line, particularly getting setup. Some reviewers even claim their phone number goes offline regularly for several days at a time, or that they can’t get an internet connection.
If you dare to brave customer support, though, you can reach out to Total Wireless tech support in 3 ways:
- Online chat
- By mail
Recap -- is Total Wireless any good?
If you’re looking for a cost-efficient, close-to-Verizon-quality service, then yes. Just be aware that you’ll likely face throttling on occasion, and even your best speeds may be slower than Verizon customers experience.
When it comes to plans, after 4 lines you need to add an account. And, although prices are great, Total Wireless lacks many features that similar competitors include — particularly an unlimited data plan.
So Total Wireless’s plans are best for those who don’t really care about extras like hotspots or HD-quality video streaming. If all you do is call and text, and want to check Facebook or Instagram occasionally – Total may be perfect for you. Otherwise, check out our list of the best prepaid phone plans for more ideas.
Best for: anyone who just needs to talk, text, and use some data. But if you need a hotspot or like to stream lots of video or audio -- pick a different carrier.
Can I bring my own phone or number?
Yes. Total Wireless has a BYOD program, so you can bring your phone over when you switch. It just needs to be “a compatible or unlocked CDMA phone.”
Does Total Wireless offer a mobile hotspot?
In a word: No. Total Wireless does not offer any mobile hotspot options: no bluetooth, no USB – nothing.
Technically, you can tether through one of those methods, though – but watch out: Total Wireless will issue
Is Total Wireless on a GSM network?
Total Wireless is an MVNO, which means they use one of the Big 4 networks’ cell towers; in Total’s case, it’s Verizon. Verizon is a CDMA network, so only CDMA phones will be compatible.
Sorry, no GSM phones here.
Does mobile data only involve internet-use?
No, mobile data usage includes calls and texts.