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.
The carrier averaged a 6 Mbps download speed in our testing, and only in Houston and Chicago did Cricket hit that 8 Mbps ceiling with any consistency. Only Straight Talk turned in slower speeds.
Other prepaid services don't face Cricket’s restriction on data speed.
Other prepaid services don't face that restriction on data speed. MetroPCS matches the superior speed of its parent company T-Mobile, and both Virgin and Boost mirror the performance of Sprint, which owns both carriers.
Plans (18/25 points)
Cricket has bumped up the size of its data plans, keeping pace with changes at other discount carriers. Plans now 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.
Cricket's $30 plan matches the 2GB option at MetroPCS. MetroPCS offers the same 5G for $40, but you can save $5 off Cricket's plan if you enroll in autopay. Cricket does cap network speeds at 8 Mbps on those plans, though. Under a current promotion running through April 12 at Cricket, you can get unlimited data plan for $40 a month for the next year through the Unlimited 2 Plan, thanks to a $10 monthly bill credit and a $5 autopay discount; note that Unlimied 2 Plans cap data speeds at an even more severe 3 Mbps.
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. 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.
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 S8 and iPhone 8, 8 Plus and X, though Cricket largely focuses on phones that cost $300 or less. Only Virgin offers fewer models among prepaid carriers, especially now that it's focusing on Apple's iPhone. You can often get budget phones at a significant discount through Cricket when you transfer a number from another carrier.
Featured Cricket Phones: iPhone X, 8 and 8 Plus, Galaxy S8, 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. Cricket's 8GB and unlimited data plans include unlimited calls and texts to Mexico and Canada. For other countries, you’ll need to add a Cricket International Plan, which tacks $5 to your bill for unlimited landline calls to 36 countries; a $10 option adds unlimited texting plus 1,000 minutes of mobile-to-mobile calls.
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.