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Today’s topic: Cricket Wireless

What it is: A discount wireless cell phone provider with dirt-cheap, unlimited texting/calls/data plans that start at $30 a month. Their phones operate on the AT&T network.

Why I tried it: I was with Verizon Wireless but I hate them because I can never understand their super-complex plans (so i never know if I’m getting ripped off) and there are lots and lots of hidden fees and extra charges on your monthly bill. AND…there are data limits. When Dan took my smartphone for a swim in Punta Cana and it had to be replaced, I couldn’t bear the thought of paying $600 for a phone (over months and months and months of payments) to Verizon, so I decided to move to Cricket Wireless.

What I did:

Step 1: I chose a Cricket Wireless phone. This was, by far, the most time consuming part, but I wanted a phone I would be happy with so I spent a lot of time reading reviews, comparing the phones in my price range, and making sure it would have enough memory for my purposes (I wanted to be able to add a micro SD card, too). (BTW, you can bring some phones with you — the Cricket site will tell you which ones, but…in my case, my phone was ruined anyway).  At Cricket, you pay for your phone outright at the start. I went with the LG Stylo and paid less than $125 for it because I was transferring a phone line from Verizon.

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Step 2: Wait for your phone to arrive (unless you go to a Cricket store, where you can get it immediately and also get help setting it up.

Step 3: When your phone arrives, go online and follow the instructions to set it up and transfer your number. This was super easy.  Though….I did have to call for help with something (can’t remember what now) and they were helpful and easy to understand.

How much it costs: I chose $40-a-month “basic” plan for each of our phones which offers 3G of high-speed data every month. If the kids go over that (I never do), it just kicks them down to a lower speed. There are no penalties. All three of our smartphones are $90 a month, which is nearly what I was paying for my service for just my phone at Verizon.  Cricket offers a “group save/family” discount that takes $10 off each line you add to your service (up to five phones).

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Yeah, but…how’s the service? Quick and reliable. I’ve noticed no difference in service from Verizon Wireless. In fact, there are times I’ve had service that my husband (still on V.W.) has not. It’s not slow when loading internet pages or using data  either, unlike our Straight Talk phones from Walmart , which were slow as molasses.

What you need to know: 1. Don’t insert the SIM card that comes with your phone until you get to that step in the online instructions. 2. If you have any problems getting your phone set up, call them. They’re more than happy to help you and they will solve the problem. 3. You’ll probably want to set up auto-pay with a credit card so you don’t have to go in every month and pay your bill and risk losing your number.  Also, you get a $5 a month discount for using auto pay.

Would I recommend it to a friend? Definitely. Why, why, why, why are you paying more for less?