I’m a cell phone junkie. I’ve been-there-done-that with almost every major carrier, including AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. Each time I’m seduced by the new sexy phones and rock bottom pricing (until my initial contract is up, of course). Then I end up sticking around out of – convenience? laziness? – for many years longer than I should.
So when our AT&T Wireless contract was ending a few months ago, I decided to try something different. The monthly bill for my husband and I, including unlimited domestic minutes, web, and text, was $140/month including all fees and taxes – and I hoped to do better. I had read about improvements in the pay-as-you-go cell phone plan space and thought that sounded like an intriguing and commitment-free option. I soon learned that these providers are popping up everywhere! After quite a bit of research, I finally narrowed my options down to: Republic Wireless, Cricket, and Boost Mobile. For purposes of the simple cost comparison below, I only listed monthly pricing for unlimited minutes/text and a minimum of 2.0 GB high speed data.
While I really liked the Republic Wireless business model and was very intrigued by their refund plan (finally an incentive for limiting data usage!) I couldn’t get over the fact that I would be limited to purchasing one of their special cell phone models that allows for the seamless switch between WiFi and cellular data. Currently, only two phone options are offered, neither of which were very appealing to me – and the fact that I would have to purchase all hardware upgrades through the provider was disappointingly reminiscent of my ties to the big carriers. Also, I reminded myself that the $40/month plan does not include additional fees and taxes estimated at around 17%, which would bring my bill up closer to $47/month. So I reluctantly ruled them out.
Cricket and Boost Mobile, however, were neck and neck for my business. Pricing is comparable, with Cricket boasting $35/month for 2.5 GB of high speed data while Boost Mobile comes in at $30/month for 2.0 GB. Both providers allow me to use any compatible unlocked phone, and both pricing models are inclusive of all fees and taxes (no hidden costs!) One minor difference is that Cricket allows users to change their plans up to twice in one month, while Boost Mobile caps only one change per billing cycle; not a huge deal for me as I didn’t anticipate making frequent changes. Ultimately, there were two factors that led me to go with Cricket:
- The Cricket plan allows for 0.5 GB more data a month. This is not a huge amount; however when I checked our historical data usage with AT&T, I noticed that my husband and I were each hovering around 2.25-2.4 GB a month, which is over the limit set by Boost Mobile.
- Cricket is on the AT&T network, using AT&T cell phone towers, while Boost Mobile is on Sprint. Having used both AT&T and Sprint as providers in the past, I knew that AT&T provided much better coverage in my home and community.
So Cricket it was going to be! I started preparing for the switch.
First I needed an unlocked phone. I could have used my existing iPhone 5, which functioned just fine and would have been easy to unlock, but it had only 16 GB of data and I had long since realized that I needed much more. I used the switch as an opportunity to purchase a new-to-me phone.
I had heard great things about Gazelle, a service providing certified pre-owned cell phones at a deeply discounted price, and decided to give it a try. They also provide great payment for trade-ins to reduce the cost of a new-to-me phone further. I found an unlocked 64 GB iPhone 5 in “Excellent” condition for $289.00, shipping included. This was less expensive than the upgrade I was looking at with AT&T, with contract (granted, that was for a newer model phone, but I didn’t want/need the newer model). I ordered the phone from Gazelle and it arrived within a few days, looked brand new, functioned perfectly, and I was extremely satisfied with the service. If interested in trying it out for yourself, click below for more information:
Next I went to my local Cricket store, unlocked cell phones for myself and my husband in hand. I understood that I would be paying an additional $25 activation fee per device by activating in person instead of online ($0 activation if doing it yourself online), but I wanted to be sure it was all done correctly. Within 10 minutes, I was all set up on both phones.
Hardware: $289.00 (husband chose to keep his existing phone)
Activation: $50.00 ($25 x 2 devices)
Total: $339.00 (less than just the upgraded phone alone would have been with my previous carrier)
I immediately downloaded the Cricket app and signed up for auto-pay to save $5/month per line while ensuring that the next month would be automatically charged to my credit card. As advertised, my first and ongoing bills have been exactly $70.00/month for the two plans. This is a savings of 50% over our previous plan, for the exact same AT&T network and towers. A day before each amount is going to be charged, I receive a text message to remind me, as well as a text message right after the charge has been made.
What I Like
- The cost! We are saving 50% on the exact same usage and network we were using before. Plus no additional fees/taxes – the advertised price is the price we pay.
- The ability to save on upfront costs by trading in an old phone and purchasing an unlocked phone of my choice through Gazelle.
- The ability to quickly see data usage details for both myself and my husband via the Cricket app. We have never been close to going over, but it is nice to know that if I think we are going to, I can add on more data for the month.
- The pre and post-billing text messages reminding and then confirming monthly payments.
- The ability to pay my bill via credit card for points/rewards.
- Having the option to use any unlocked compatible phone; not having to purchase the phone through Cricket.
- Knowing that I can cancel at any time and switch carriers if a better deal comes along – no contracts nor long term commitments.
What I Don’t Like
- The default Deezer add-on (at a monthly cost); I quickly removed and cancelled it, but if someone forgets, they may be charged for an app they didn’t really want/need.
- The Cricket phone app could be more robust. I wish I had the ability to change my plan directly within the app itself.
I love Cricket Wireless and feel we have the best prepaid plan for our needs right now. The transition was seamless, the cell phone service has remained consistent, we can cancel at any time with no early termination fees, and the only change is the fact that we are saving $70/month on our cell phone bill. I was also very satisfied with my Gazelle cell phone purchase, and plan to continue to use them when next looking for an upgrade. If you are happy with Sprint’s coverage in your area, I recommend serious consideration for the Republic Wireless and Boost Mobile plans as well. My guess is that prepaid cell phone plans and options will only continue to improve, and value will continue to increase across the board.