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Straight Talk Review
Bottom Line

Straight Talk uses all four of the national carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint) to provide nationwide service. Some plans offer decent value, but network performance can vary widely, and customer service draws mixed feedback.

Pros
  • Uses all four national carriers for service
  • Good options for international callers
  • Can use your own phone
Cons
  • Limited plan options and features
  • Mixed grades for customer service

Breaking it down

Plans and flexibility

Step up for the best deal. Straight Talk's cheapest plan offers unlimited texts, but, at only 1,500 minutes of talk and 100 MB of data per billing cycle for $30 per month, you can find better deals. However, the carrier's "Unlimited" plans look to be a decent choice. They include unlimited talk and messaging and either 5 GB (Est. $45 per month) or 10 GB (Est. $55 per month) of LTE data (with data usage after that throttled back to 2G speeds). If you frequently call abroad, a $60 Unlimited International Plan adds unlimited nationwide, unlimited mobile to mobile to Mexico, China, India & Canada, and unlimited calls to select International landline destinations to the basic Unlimited plan; it costs $60 per month. The selection of phones is limited, but Straight Talk supports unlocked phones for any of the four national carriers (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint), their company-owned MVNOs (such as Cricket), as well as compatible unlocked phones bought elsewhere.

Performance

It depends. Straight Talk is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that buys capacity from the four large nationwide carriers and resells it to its customers. Performance will largely depend on which of the carriers is providing your service, and that's determined by which phone you buy or bring to Straight Talk. Keep in mind, however, that while talk and text performance will be just as good, reviews say that LTE data speeds will likely be a little bit lower than what the carrier being used delivers to its own customers.

Customer service

Not the best. Some large national surveys give Straight Talk middling to good ratings, but a look behind the numbers reveals that those grades are based more on network performance and value rather than how good a job the carrier does in supporting its customers. J.D. Power and Associates surveys that look at customer care and the buying experience aren't very complimentary. Among prepaid providers, Straight Talk finishes second to last in customer care and dead last in the buying experience.

Our Sources

1. J.D. Power and Associates

U.S. Wireless Customer Care Study Vol. 2 (2016) -- Non-contract Channels, Via Mobile Devices, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, July 28, 2016

Straight Talk doesn't fare well in this J.D. Power and Associates' survey of prepaid cell phone plan customer care. It finishes second to last among the carriers that are rated.

2. J.D. Power and Associates

Wireless Purchase Experience Satisfaction Study Vol.2 (2016) -- Non-contract, Editors of J.D. Power and Associates, Aug. 11, 2016

The J.D. Power and Associates survey for how satisfied customers are with their purchasing experience also doesn't paint a pretty picture when it comes to Straight Talk. It rates dead last among the companies included.

3. PCMag.com

Readers' Choice Awards 2016: Smartphones and Carriers, Ben Gottesman, March 15, 2016

Things look a little better at PCMag.com. Straight Talk scores a fifth place finish and a score that sits exactly at the industry average.

4. ConsumerReports.org

U.S. Cell Phone Carriers, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, September 2016

ConsumerReports.org survey respondents generally give middling marks to Straight Talk. It does fare a little better than average when it comes to value, but plummets to the back of the pack in the area of customer support.

5. TomsGuide.com

Tested: Cricket, MetroPCS Much Slower Than Parent Networks, Philip Michaels, Sept. 8, 2015

Tom's Guide looks at data speeds of prepaid providers relative to the networks that they use to provide service. Though testing is limited in scope, it reveals that, on average, Straight Talk delivers slower -- though still quite usable performance -- than the large national carriers, even though it uses the same networks.

6. HowardForums.com

Straight Talk, Contributors to HowardForums.com, As of January 2017

HowardForums.com hosts a subforum dedicated exclusively to Straight Talk. It's a good destination for prospective users to ask questions and learn about others' experiences with the service.