Editors' Note: We've published the results of our 2018 network testing. Current rankings reflect last year's results, but we plan to update scores along with new customer service rankings for wireless carriers before the end of the year.
Opting for prepaid service can feel like a series of trade-offs, and no company illustrates this better than Cricket. On the one hand, Cricket offers subscribers a wide array of attractively priced plans, particularly if you've got multiple lines. On the other, you have to suffer through some seriously constrained wireless service to reap any savings.
Carrier Performance (27/40 points)
A subsidiary of AT&T, Cricket takes great pains to tout the reach of its parent network. Look at the finer print on the Cricket website, though, and you'll see that Cricket caps download speeds at 8 Mbps. We've tested LTE network speeds, and we can assure you: Cricket's not kidding.
As with our 2017 results, when we tested network speeds this year, Cricket routinely hit that 8 Mbps ceiling, with the discount carrier averaging download speeds of 6.5 Mbps in our most recent tests. On the bright side, Cricket has removed that speed limit from its most expensive unlimited data plan (though its cheaper unlimited data plan has an even more restricted 3 Mpbs app), but Cricket made that move after we completed our testing.
Other prepaid services don't face Cricket’s restriction on data speed.
Our scores still reflect Cricket's 2017 LTE speed test results, but given the speed cap Cricket still imposes on most of its plans, we wouldn't expect a big change when we revise our scores later this year.
Plans (18/25 points)
Cricket has bumped up the size of its data plans, keeping pace with changes at other discount carriers. Plans start with 2GB of LTE data for $30 a month, while the carrier's popular $40 plan now offers 5GB. You can knock $5 off every Cricket plan, save for its 2GB offering by enrolling in autopay.
At least one Cricket plan is no longer subject to the 8 Mbps speed cap. Opt for Cricket $60-a-month unlimited plan ($55 with autopay enrollment), and you can enjoy uncapped LTE speeds, though video streaming is restricted to 480p resolution. That's a better value than Cricket's less expensive unlimited plan ($55 a month, or $50 with autopay), where a very restrictive 3 Mbps speed cap remains.
MORE: Best Prepaid Phone Plans
Cricket fiddled with the size of the discounts it offers when you add extra lines, and the new amounts are not as generous as they were previously. On tiered data plans, you can knock $10 off the cost of a second line of data; additional lines after that get a $20 discount per line. Under this pricing, a family of four pays $110 for 5GB of data on each of their four lines. For unlimited plans, the basic plan with the 3 Mbps speed cap offers four lines of data for $100 a month; addition lines on the less restrictive Unlimited Extra plan costs $30 each.
Customer Service (15/20 points)
Cricket fared the best of any prepaid carrier on our undercover customer-service testing. We even ranked Cricket higher than Sprint, largely because of some inaccurate answers we received when using Sprint's phone-support lines.
We were impressed by the amount of detail Cricket's online support resources provide. Calls to the carrier's phone support line were handled quickly, even after we had to navigate through a phone tree at the beginning of each call. Posting questions to Cricket's Twitter and Facebook accounts produced quick responses that could have been a bit more detailed.
Phone Selection (5/10 points)
Nothing particularly stands out about the phones available through Cricket. You can find the Galaxy S9 and iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X, though Cricket largely focuses on phones that cost $300 or less, with a lot of exclusives from the likes of Alcatel and LG. You can often get budget phones at a significant discount through Cricket when you transfer a number from another carrier.
Featured Cricket Phones: iPhone XR, iPhone XS, Galaxy S9, Alcatel Idol 5
Cricket embraces a no-frills approach to its service, as customer-friendly extras are few and far between.
Special Features (1/5 points)
Cricket embraces a no-frills approach to its service, as customer-friendly extras are few and far between. If you have an unlimited plan with Cricket, you get unlimited calls and texts, plus access to your data when you're traveling in Canada or Mexico. (In Canada, your usage can't be more than 50 percent of your total usage during a month.) A $5 International add-on lets you call landlines in 35 countries, while the $15 option includes texting and 1,000 minutes of mobile-to-mobile calls.
Mobile hotspot data, included with other carriers' plans, is an add-on at Cricket. It's $10 per month for 10GB of LTE data, and only unlimited plans are eligible.
New Cricket customers get 30 days access to the Deezer music streaming service. After that, they'll be charged $6 a month if they continue to use Deezer.
In April, Cricket added a new Stream More feature that caps video streams at 480p, so you'll consume less data when catching up on your favorite Netflix shows. You have the option of turning off Stream More if you prefer to watch higher-resolution video on your phone.
Cricket has a Refer-A-Friend program that gives your a $25 service credit for referring a new customer who stays for 60 days.