Cricket vs. Straight Talk: Which has the better prepaid phone plan?
See how Cricket and Straight Talk measure up against each other.
Cricket and Straight Talk have a few things in common. Both operate on AT&T's network (although Straight Talk also operates on Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon networks) and each do unlimited plans differently than any other pre-paid carrier.
Cricket offers a cheap unlimited plan but caps your network speeds at 8 Mbps or 3 Mbps (depending on the plan), and Straight Talk requires you to buy a phone through it to have unlimited LTE for $55 per month as a promotion, while normally the unlimited plans only include a set amount of LTE data. While some may balk at these weird ways of offering service, they can work for quite a few people. With that in mind let's run the numbers and crunch the data to see which network is better.
- Cricket background
- Straight Talk background
- Cricket plans
- Cricket phones
- Straight Talk plans
- Straight Talk phones
- Which should you go with?
Who owns it? AT&T
Which network does it use? AT&T
How long has it been around? Since 1999
Tethering allowed? Yes, for $10 per month
Cheapest plan: $30 for one month: 1GB 4G LTE, unlimited nationwide talk and text
Straight Talk background
Who owns it? América Móvil DBA TracFone in the U.S.
Which network does it use? AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon
How long has it been around? Since 2012
Tethering allowed? No
Cheapest plan: $35 for one month: 2 GB 4G LTE, unlimited nationwide talk and text
Cricket offers five plans in total, with two separate unlimited LTE plans, differentiated by the data speed cap. The cheaper $55 plan caps LTE speeds at 3 Mbps and the $60 plan caps speeds at 8 Mbps. Here is the full list of plans Cricket offers. All Cricket plans include unlimited domestic talk and text.
|$30||1 GB LTE data|
|$40||4 GB LTE data|
|$50||8 GB LTE data|
|$55||Unlimited LTE data at 3 Mbps|
|$60||Unlimited LTE data at 8 Mbps|
Notes: Video streaming at SD quality (about 480p). After 22 GB of data usage on an Unlimited Plan line, Cricket may temporarily slow speeds to 128 Kbps.
Cricket's Group Save is available for plans starting at $40 per month. You save $10 for the second line, $20 for the third, $30 for the fourth and $40 for the fifth. An account with five lines of service at the $40 monthly tier or higher would save a total of $100.
- Cricket Protect: $7 per month
- Additional data: $10 per GB, per month
- Tethering: $10 per month
All plans that cost $50 per month or higher include unlimited text messages to 38 countries, calls from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico.
- Cricket International: $5 per month for unlimited calling to landlines in 36 countries
- Cricket International Extra: $15 per month for unlimited calling to landlines in 36 countries, Unlimited MMS to 36 countries, 1,000 minutes of mobile-to-mobile calling
- Individual country add-on: See the Individual Country Add-Ons support page
Cricket actually has some great phones exclusive to it from ZTE and LG, including the ZTE Blade X Max and LG Harmony. Higher-end devices like the Galaxy S8 are also available if you are willing to spend a bit more.
Straight Talk plans
Straight Talk offers five plans with data, plus a special promotional plan with unlimited LTE data if you buy a Samsung phone through the company. All Straight Talk plans include unlimited domestic talk and text.
|$30||100 MB LTE data|
|$35||2 GB LTE data|
|$45||8 GB LTE data|
|$55||12 GB LTE data (unlimited LTE data with purchase of select Samsung phones)|
|$60||8 GB LTE data, unlimited mobile-to-mobile to Mexico, China, Canada, and India, calls to 15 unique destination numbers per service month, and 400 bonus minutes to call Claro Guatemala phone numbers|
Straight Talk does not offer a family plan at this time.
- $10 Global calling cards with rates as low as 2.5 cents per minute to any destination, including mobile numbers
- Straight Talk's $60/8 GB LTE plan includes unlimited mobile-to-mobile to Mexico, China, Canada, and India, calls to 15 unique destination numbers per service month, and 400 bonus minutes to call Claro Guatemala phone numbers.
Straight Talk phones
Straight Talk offers a wide variety of Android and Apple phones, but a promotional offer that ends November 2017 gives you unlimited LTE data on the $55 monthly plan with the purchase of a Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8+.
Which should I go with?
First, you need to check what the AT&T network is like where you'll be using your phone the most. If it's not acceptable, rule out Cricket. Straight Talk has the advantage of using all four U.S. carrier networks and has better service in more areas.
Next, decide if you want to buy a new Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8 + from Straight Talk. If not, Straight Talk offers no unlimited LTE plans. Its advertised unlimited data packages have an allotment between 2 and 12 GB per month for LTE data and unlimited 2G data. In the 21st century, 2G data speeds are insufficient for anything except checking text-based email.
We're unable to offer a blanket recommendation for either of these companies to anyone who needs unlimited.
Finally, decide if 3 Mbps or 8 Mbps data speeds are acceptable on an unlimited plan. Cricket throttles its unlimited plans much like its parent company AT&T on lower-tier unlimited plan.
If you need unlimited LTE data, it's hard to outright recommend either Cricket or Straight Talk. Each company has an eccentric unlimited offering that's just not going to work for a good many people. Between 3 Mbps and 8 Mbps are enough for a usable internet experience if not an enjoyable one for streaming media junkies, but even the FCC thinks broadband internet access requires data speeds of 25 Mbps or higher.
And if you're in the market for a new phone, willing to buy before November 2017 is finished, and don't mind the choice of a Galaxy S8, Straight Talk offers unlimited data. Otherwise, its advertised "unlimited plans" are what we would call deceptive advertising.
If you need unlimited high-speed data, look elsewhere.
If you don't need unlimited data, Straight Talk's $45 plan with 8 GB of LTE is a better option than Cricket's $50 plan with 8 GB of LTE data, but as you can see it's only a difference of $5. Both companies slow your data speeds to a crawl once you reach your limit, though Cricket will sell you extra data at the rate of $10 per GB, per month.
These prices are in line with most MVNO offerings. Because of the $5 price difference and its comprehensive $60 plan for international users, Straight Talk will be the better choice for more people. But there is nothing either carrier offers that is a stand-out feature unless you need international extras.
Alternative carriers (MVNOS)
- What is an alternative mobile carrier?
- What are the advantages of going with an alternative carrier?
- How to make sure your phone works on a prepaid alternative carrier
- 8 Important Considerations When Switching To An MVNO
- These are the cheapest data plans you can buy in the U.S.
- Mint SIM vs. Cricket Wireless: Which is better for you?