Cricket Wireless Review

Acquired by AT&T in 2013, Cricket Wireless shines among cell phone providers for its affordable prepaid group plans. At $25-60 per month per line before discounts are applied, it’s cheaper than both Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile. By coverage, Cricket is the fifth largest cellular provider nationwide, with widest and fastest coverage in Texas, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Tennessee, Nevada, New Jersey, Arkansas, Delaware and Mississippi. Its speeds lag behind bigger providers, but if you’re looking for a budget-friendly carrier that offers a good range of plans, Cricket Wireless is tough to beat.

The Claim

Cricket promises “friendly, affordable wireless” plans with no annual contract.

Is It True?

Yes. Cricket wireless is one of the most affordable mobile carriers around. Plans are cheaper than bigger providers like Verizon Wireless and don’t come with the hassle of an annual contract. Cricket really shines when it comes to its Group Save discount. With the Group Save discount, you can save up to $70 a month. This is a huge bonus if you’re purchasing plans for a family of five, or if you and your friends want to go in on a plan together.

Gauging a mobile carrier’s “friendliness” is more abstract, but Cricket delivers on this as well. We love how user-friendly its website is when compared to competitors. Rather than bury information in the fine print, what you see on Cricket’s site is what you get. This level of transparency makes the decision-making process much less of an annoyance. Another way the provider scores friendliness points is by including taxes in all its monthly rates. The price you see online is the total price, meaning you won’t be surprised by additional taxes when the bill comes.

Product Overview

Best for

Those seeking group discounts and prepaid cell phone plans

Not for

People who want the fastest speeds

Features

Price range for one line
$30-$60 per month

Available data plans
2 GB, 5 GB, Unlimited and Unlimited Max

Data caps for Unlimited plans

22 GB for both Unlimited plans
Download speed

Up to 8 Mbps
Number of states served
37
Contract length
No annual contract
Overage fees

No overage fees
Add-on features
• +1 GB for $10
• International service
• Mobile hotspots
• Cricket protect
• Deezer from Cricket free trial
• Individual country add-ons

AutoPay credit

Available for the 5 GB, Unlimited and Unlimited Max plans. If you sign up for AutoPay, you’ll get a $5 credit at the end of each monthly statement. This can’t be stacked with the Group Save discount, but it’s a smart deal if you’re the only person in the plan.

1+ GB

For the 2 GB and 5 GB plans, you have the option of topping up your data if you’ve hit your monthly data cap. You can add an extra 1 GB as either a one-time or monthly purchase for $10, making this a perfect solution for people who occasionally exceed their data limit. This is a nice alternative to have if you’re interested in more data but aren’t ready to upgrade your plan. We recommend only doing this once you’ve hit your cap, as any “leftover” data won’t roll over into the next month.

Mobile hotspot

Available for both Unlimited plans at $10 per month. The mobile hotspot allows you to share your monthly plan's high-speed data allowance among multiple devices. Its data allowance is 10 GB per month: speeds slow from 3-8 Mbps to 128 Kbps once you hit the cap. It’s only available for compatible phones, which you can check here.

No annual contract

Most carriers now offer a version of a no contract option, but they aren’t as easy as Cricket’s. With Cricket, no contract means you can leave for another provider if you’re unsatisfied. Like a standard prepaid plan, you’re essentially paying for your data up front. This lets you keep your options open if you ever feel the urge to switch to another provider.

Possible Drawbacks

Slower speeds

The biggest drawback for Cricket is that its speeds aren’t up to par with those of the larger carriers. Despite being on AT&T’s network, Cricket’s 8 Mbps max speeds are lacking. This is because Cricket’s speeds are capped and don’t operate at the same level as AT&T’s network speeds. Unfortunately, its speeds on the Unlimited plan are capped at 3 Mbps (note all other plans can reach speeds up to 8 Mbps). Cricket says 8 Mbps is plenty for streaming video and downloading games, which is true if you’re not concerned with HD quality. But you might notice a difference — especially if you’re used to the speeds offered by larger carriers. If you need a lot of speed and don’t mind paying for the extra convenience, we recommend looking into faster providers like AT&T or Verizon.

The Competition

Cricket Wireless
Boost Mobile
FreedomPop
MetroPCS
Available data plans
• 2 GB
• 5 GB
• Unlimited
• Unlimited Max
• 3 GB
•Unlimited Gigs
• Boost Unlimited Plus
• Basic 500
• Premium 500 MB
• Premium 1 GB
• Premium 2 GB
• Premium 3 GB
• Premium 4 GB
• 2 GB
• 4 GB
• Unlimited
• Unlimited +10 GB Hotspot

Price range for one line
$30-$60
$35-$60
$0-$34.99
$30-$60
Annual contract required
X
X

X

X

Overage fees
X

X

X


Hotspot capabilities included
X

X


Speed cap

X

X

Data caps for unlimited data plans

22 GB
23 GB
No available data plan


35 GB
Group discount/family plan

X


AutoPay discount

X

X

X

Cricket Wireless vs. Boost Mobile

On paper Boost Mobile and Cricket Wireless are fairly similar. Both offer competitive plans that don’t require annual contracts or charge overage fees. One feature Boost has over Cricket is that it includes a mobile hotspot with both of its Unlimited plans — which is a major plus if you do a lot of tethering between your phone and other devices. However, Boost’s parent company is Sprint which means you’ll be getting Sprint coverage and reliability. Cricket’s parent company, AT&T, wins out over Sprint on overall performance, but it does cap speeds at 8 Mbps. It really boils down to preference. If you’re in an area with strong Sprint coverage, Boost Mobile might be the way to go. But if you aren’t and would prefer generally stronger performance, Cricket Wireless is still your best bet.

Cricket Wireless vs. FreedomPop

When it comes to price, FreedomPop beats Cricket — nothing can beat free. But cost is really the only place FreedomPop wins. In exchange for ultra-cheap plans, the carrier charges overage fees, plus its hotspot costs extra and only tethers up to 1 GB of data. Cricket Wireless excels as the more cost-effective option for those who need some added features, but if you only need your cellphone to do the bare minimum and don’t want to pay more for extra features, FreedomPop’s hard to beat.

Cricket Wireless vs. MetroPCS

MetroPCS and Cricket Wireless share many of the same features. Pricing for both is competitive and neither requires a long-term contract. MetroPCS has an edge when it comes to its unlimited plans’ data caps (MetroPCS has a 35 GB limit before throttling speeds whereas Cricket’s unlimited plans start to slow at 22 GB). It also includes mobile hotspots across all plans at no additional cost. However, when it comes to performance, Cricket wins. MetroPCS is owned by T-Mobile, meaning it has the same coverage and reliability. AT&T’s overall performance is stronger than T-Mobile’s, so if you’re more concerned with that Cricket is the way to go.

Cricket Wireless FAQs

Is Cricket part of AT&T?

Yes. AT&T bought Cricket Wireless in 2013. Rootmetrics, an independent network testing firm, ranks AT&T as second in overall performance. Because AT&T owns Cricket, you can expect the same level of coverage and reliability as you would with AT&T mobile plans.

Does Cricket have additional fees?

No. With Cricket Wireless, what you see is what you get. You’ll have to pay for extra features like mobile hotspots and international calling, but that information is clearly presented on the company’s website. Even taxes are included in the total price you see so you’ll always know exactly what you’re paying.

What’s Cricket’s service area?

According to Broadbandnow, Cricket is available in 37 states and is the fifth largest cellular provider in the U.S. Though its service area is spread out across the country, it’s top area served is Houston, Texas, followed by Chicago, Illinois.

The Bottom Line

Cricket Wireless is best for families who value low prices over the fastest speeds, or anyone who prefers an affordable phone bill over the speediest connections. Audit the phone habits and data usage of anyone joining your plan to decide which will be right for you. If you need a cheaper wireless plan, then Cricket might be your best option.