Verizon has long been known as the best service provider in the US. Unfortunately, they know this and charge accordingly. I live in a somewhat rural area so I didn’t want to change phone companies in fear of not having service. A couple of months ago, I heard about an interesting phone company called Total Wireless. They boast that you get the reliability of Verizon at a fraction of the cost.

How exactly do you get the same service as Verizon? Apparently, they rent out Verizon Towers.

With some skepticism, I investigated using them. I watched a couple of YouTube videos and read some reviews and they seemed to check out. At the time, my wife and I were paying $90 a month and only had 4GB of data to share. The plan I saw with Total was $60 a month for two lines and you get 15GB of data. To get a comparable plan with Verizon, you would have to pay $120 for two lines and get 12GB of data. After seeing the difference in price, I decided to give them a shot.

Is your phone compatible?

The catch with Total Wireless is that you have to either be a former Verizon customer with a Verizon phone, buy a phone from Total, or have an unlocked CDMA phone. It looks like there might be ways around this but I don’t know if they work or not. Supposedly, you can buy a sim card and put it in a Verizon phone and then after you set up your phone with Total you can put the sim into the non-Verizon phone.

To see if your phone is compatible, go to Total Wireless’ website and punch in your imei #. When I did this, my phone came up as non-compatible. Drat! I thought. I’ve come all this way only to be rejected. After some deep thought, I had the idea to pay off my phone and see if it would be compatible then. Let me just clarify that I was not financing my phone. I got my phone for “free” as long as I kept it and didn’t upgrade for 2 years. I still had around $120 to pay on it but figured if I could switch to Total, I’d get my money back in savings over the course of 4 months. I paid it off and bam! It was compatible.

How much of a pain was it to actually switch to Total Wireless?

Once I had verified that our phones were compatible, I went ahead and signed up. First, I went to Walmart and bought 2 sim cards at $10 apiece. The sim cards come with pretty straight-forward instructions. Step 1 determine what size your current sim card is by taking it out of your phone. Step 2 take the Total Wireless sim card and put it in your phone. Step 3 go on the website and activate your phone.

The application process is the most time-consuming part. You have to have all of your Verizon account information handy including your account Pin. When you’re bringing your own phone like I did, you start by clicking “activate phone” on the website. After that you fill out all of the account information. I went through it all and chose the two-line plan.

Once you’ve activated your account with Total Wireless, they have to port your number from Verizon and close out your account. If Total Wireless can set everything up, you should get a call a little while after you activate to finalize everything. I never got the call and decided to call them about an hour after activating. They informed me that the Verizon pin number was incorrect. After getting that straightened out, we were good to go!

What’s the service actually like?

We’ve been on the plan for a couple months now and everything has been great! We go to the same places we used to and seem to get the same phone service. I haven’t noticed any difference in call quality. I called Verizon to make sure my account was closed, and it was. So, for now I’d say Total Wireless is a great alternative to Verizon. It might not be the cheapest phone plan out there but you don’t have to sacrifice cell service to get the cheaper costs.

If you’re not with Verizon but are paying more than what Total Wireless charges, I’d look into switching. You can get a perfectly capable smart phone with them (including iPhones). Even if you’re stuck in a contract, it may be worth it in the long run to pay up front and let the savings over time make up for any fees.