Are you looking to save on your monthly cellular bill? Then it may be time to check out budget carriers. Budget options like Straight Talk and Total Wireless offer prepaid phone plans that fit a variety of budgets. They’re both no contract as well, meaning you can keep them for a month or a year and cancel anytime. All you do is stop paying.
Straight Talk and Total Wireless are two of the biggest budget carriers. We’ll break down the differences between the two to help you decide if one of them is a good option for you.
Tracfone Owns Both Straight Talk and Total Wireless
Both Straight Talk and Total Wireless are Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) owned by parent company TracFone. MVNOs are cellular providers that buy the rights to use one of the big four cellular networks (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint) towers. However, there are significant differences between Straight Talk and Total Wireless in terms of plans, pricing, and retail availability we’ll discuss below.
Note: Just because TracFone owns total Mobile, it doesn’t mean Straight Talk phones will automatically be interoperable on Total Mobile networks. Likewise, all billing, customer service, and other services go through individual providers (i.e., you can’t call Total Wireless to refill your Straight Talk account).
Straight Talk vs. Total Wireless: Which is Better Already?
There’s no quick answer to that question. Both have different options for different needs and budgets. However, Straight Talk does not offer shared/family plans, so if you’re in need of multiple lines, you’re probably better going with Total Wireless.
On the other hand, Total Wireless does not offer a truly unlimited data plan for unlimited lines. If you need this, consider Straight Talk or another provider.
What is Straight Talk?
Straight Talk is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator that uses AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon towers. With 25 million customers, it’s the largest no-contract cellular provider in America. Straight Talk is a TracFone brand that primarily targets data-hungry, individual users on a budget.
Straight Talk has an agreement that makes Walmart its exclusive retailer. But you can buy both phones and cellular service directly from Straight Talk on its website or by phone.
Straight Talk has three primary plans between $35-$55 with varying levels of data allowances.
Straight Talk Pros:
- No contract or credit check
- Reward program
- Discounts for enrolling and using the auto-refill program
- Oriented for mobile data users
- Can keep your old phone
- Has phone installment plans
- International calling
- Can quickly transfer data from old phone
- Coverage isn’t great depending on the carrier you select
- No family plans
What is Total Wireless?
Total Wireless is another MVNOs operated by Tracfone. However, Total Mobile exclusively uses Verizon’s 4G LTE network. Devices and service plans are available through the Total Wireless website and on Wal-Mart’s website along with in-store at Target, Walmart, and Dollar General. They do not use Verizon’s voice VoLTE but use CMDA, so there may be variations in call quality depending on your area.
Total Wireless has both single and multi-line plans with prices between $25-$100 per month. All plans include unlimited Talk and text with different data options.
Total Wireless Pros:
- No contract or credit check
- Affordable family/multi-line plans
- Keep your phone number
- Cheap add-ons
- Reward program
- 5% auto-refill discount
- Great coverage
- International calling options
Total Wireless Cons:
- Basic plans, not too many options
- No unlimited data plans
- No international texting
- No mobile hotspots on any plan
- Lease to own has expensive interest fees
Straight Talk Plans
Straight Talk has three main plans that include “unlimited data.” This means you get data at 4G LTE speeds until you use your monthly allowance. Then you’re lowered to 2G speeds until you top up or add extra data.
Basic plans do not include mobile hotspot functionality.
- 3 GB: $35 per month ($34 with Auto-refill)
- 25 GB: $45 per month ($44 with Auto-refill)
- Unlimited: $55 per month ($50/month for 3 months with Auto-refill)
Note: at 25 GB, Straight Talk is a better deal than Total Wireless
Straight Talk customers’ speeds (along with Total Mobile) are deprioritized behind customers on the network they are using during congestion. For example, if you are using T-Mobile’s network, these customers will get priority during busy times.
Straight Talk does not offer family plans, but now has a 2 line, unlimited plan for $90 a month.
Total Wireless Plans
Total Wireless individual plans have a lot of overlap in prices and data allotment with Straight Talk wireless. Like Straight Talk, all plans have data allotments at 4G LTE speeds before reducing to 2G.
Total Mobile Plans:
- Unlimited Talk and Text: $25 ($23.70 with Auto-refill)
- 5 GB: $35 per month ($33.20 with Auto-refill)
- 25 GB: $45 per month ($47.50 with Auto-refill)
Note: at 5 GB Total Wireless is a better deal than Straight Talk. Also, Total Wireless currently does not offer a truly unlimited data plan.
Straight Talk vs. Total Wireless: Coverage
Total Wireless runs exclusively on Verizon’s networks. Straight Talk can work on any of the major carrier networks. You do this by selecting your phone’s compatibility. For example, if you’re bringing an AT&T phone to Straight Talk, you choose a SIM card designed to run on AT&T.
If you purchase a phone from Straight Talk, it will use a GSM network, either T-Mobile or AT&T. So which has better coverage? You’re best off checking your area to figure it out. Verizon has the best overall performance and coverage of all the major carriers. But it may be different from where you live.
No matter which you choose, you may opt to stick to Verizon’s towers, or you may want to use AT&T’s instead. If Verizon isn’t great in your area, then definitely opt for Straight Talk instead.
Straight Talk vs. Total Wireless: Performance
Again this depends on your network. However, both Straight Talk and Wireless do get comparable performance to direct Verizon customers. It’s not quite as fast, but most users will hardly notice the difference. Likewise, you may occasionally run into deprioritization issues, but again most users don’t notice the problem here.
Everything depends on the performance strength of the carrier you choose based on where you live.
Straight Talk vs. Total Wireless: Bring Your Own Phone
Both Straight Talk and Total Wireless makes it easy for you to bring your own phone to their network. You can get SIM kits and easily switch over.
All you do is enter your device IMEI number on their websites, and it will check if our phone is compatible. From here, select a SIM card and plan, and you’ll be up and running in no time.
Straight Talk vs. Total Wireless: Phone Selection
Alt. Text: Both Straight Talk and Total Mobile have the same iPhone 11 prices
Straight Talk and Total Mobile have very similar web layouts when it comes to selecting phones from them. Prices are usually the exact same on devices though you can find deals on random smartphones if you shop closely.
Likewise, both carriers offer an installment program to purchase a phone over a duration of time. And they both charge the same interest rates depending on your credit score.
Straight Talk vs. Total Wireless: Family Plans
Straight Talk doesn’t have a family plan. As mentioned, they do have a 2-line limited, unlimited ultimate plan for $90 a month.
Total Wireless really shines in the availability of different data plans for 2-4 lines.
- 2 Lines- 30 GB, $30 per line ($60, $57 with Auto-refill)
- 3 Lines- 60 GB, $28.33 per line ($85, $80.70 with Auto-refill
- 4 lines – 100 GB, $25 per line ($100, $95 with Auto-refill).
Although Total Wireless doesn’t have a true unlimited family plan, these are good options for moderate data family users looking to save monthly switching from one of the big four carriers.
Straight Talk vs. Total Wireless: Customer Service
If you go with a budget carrier, you can’t expect the best in customer service. If you look around the internet, you’ll find plenty of horror stories about customer service experience with both providers. Overall, Straight Talk is slightly better than Total Wireless, but don’t expect greatness from either.
Be prepared to solve most of your issues on your own. And if you do plan on ending your Total Wireless service for some reason, don’t expect them to refund any unused money in your account quickly. You’re better off using it up before switching.
Customer Service numbers:
- Straight Talk: 1-877-430-2355
- Total Mobile: 1-866-663-3633
Straight Talk vs. Total Wireless: Rewards
Both Straight Talk and Total Wireless offer rewards programs to save on your monthly bill. Each works through points which you gain from paying your bill on time, enrolling in auto-pay, and more. Overall, both are equal to each other in advantages.
Bottom Line: Straight Talk vs. Total Wireless
Both Straight Talk and Total Wireless are pretty good budget options. They both offer affordable plans at a variety of price points. Which you choose depends on your needs.
For people truly on a budget, it’s hard to beat the Total Wireless 5 GB option for $35 per month that also includes unlimited talk and text. Likewise, if you need multiple lines especially 3-4, Total Wireless has some of the best prices you can get on any carrier. And it uses Verizon’s network, so you’re getting great speed and coverage to go with it.
On the other hand, if you have a little more room in your budget and need more data, Straight Talk is a better option for you, especially because Total Wireless doesn’t even offer a truly unlimited data plan. Likewise, if you’re part of a data-hungry couple, it’s hard to beat Straight Talk’s 2 lines, unlimited data plan for $45 per month.
Before going with either, take a look at some of the other budget carriers. Metro by T-Mobile consistently ranks as the best budget option. T-Mobile also directly offers a variety of affordable plans directly from there.
For more information, head on over to our blog, where you can check out all our different carrier breakdown battles. You can start with this comparison of Boost vs. MetroPCS to see if one of them might be a better option than Straight Talk or Total Wireless for you.