Who doesn’t want to save on their monthly phone bill? Budget carriers like Straight Talk and MetroPCS offering a wide variety of service agreements ranging from $20-60 per month making them affordable alternatives to the big four providers (T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint). Best of all, they still operate on the major networks. So you don’t sacrifice coverage and reliability in the name of savings.
Straight Talk and MetroPCS are the top two budget carriers. In this showdown, we’ll review the differences between Straight Talk vs. MetroPCS to help you decide if making the switch is right for you.
Note: In Late 2018, T-Mobile, who owns MetroPCS, changed its name to Metro by T-Mobile. We’ll use the terms MetroPCS, Metro by T-Mobile, and Metro interchangeable as you still see all three used frequently.
Skip the Details: Who’s the Best Option?
For the overall quality of service and additional features, Metro is the best option. Among all budget carriers, Metro consistently scores the highest on all reviews. Some expert reviewers even recommend it over Sprint. Metro is also the closest full-service budget carrier. It has decent customer service, especially compared to Straight Talk. It also offers perks like Amazon Prime on its unlimited plans.
On a pure price basis, Straight Talk does slightly edge on some of its plans. But it’s worth the extra $5 per month to get three times the data and the other great features. With that said, there are a few instances where you might still feel inclined to go with Straight Talk instead.
Both Straight Talk and Metro are MVNOs
There are over 100 Mobile virtual network operators or MVNOs in the US. The carriers operate on big four networks while typically charging lower prices on prepaid service plans. For the most part, MVNOs have comparable service to people directly using a big four network.
However, during periods of congestion or if a user consumed excessive amounts of today (typically 30 GB or more in a service period), the customer may be deprioritized. This means they will have slower speeds compared to direct network customers.
Nonetheless, most MVNO users report that deprioritization isn’t a big deal, and it doesn’t interfere with most activities.
About Straight Talk
The straight Talk parent company is Tracfone. Tracfone actually operates several brands. Aside from its own, it owns Straight Talk, Page Cellular, Simple Mobile, Total Wireless, Net 10, and others. Tracfone uses these different brands to target different segments of the market.
Straight Talk’s segment is data-hungry users on a budget. Straight Talk also emphasizes ease. You can navigate their website, choose a plan, and add features in just a few minutes.
Straight Talk is unique among MVNOs in that it doesn’t use a singular network. Straight Talk phones can operate on all four big networks. Though you do have to choose one at the time you sign up. We’ll get into more detail about this below.
Walmart exclusively sells Straight Talk in its retail stores. But you can also purchase Straight Talk phones and plans online or by phone.
Straight Talk Pros
- Great coverage on all major cell networks
- A large number of compatible BYOD phones
- Competitive speeds even with big four carriers
- No credit check
- Cheap activation $.99
- Large selection of Android and iPhones with promo discounts
- Good international options (with an added fee)
Straight Talk Cons
- Only three primary plans
- Hotspot only available on $55 plan
- No family plans
- Below average customer service
About Metro by T-Mobile
T-Mobile recently rebranded MetroPCS as Metro by T-Mobile. It is a prepaid brand that is owned by T-Mobile US.
Roger Linquist founded MetroPCS in 1995. In 2013, they took part in a reverse merger with T-Mobile. The combined company would come to be simply known as T-Mobile US.
In September of 2018, a major rebranding effort took place. The company, now called Metro by T-Mobile, introduced unlimited plans with additional features to entice new customers. Some of those features include Google One storage and Amazon Prime subscriptions.
Metro uses T-Mobile’s high-speed LTE network performing nearly identical to T-Mobile. Like Straight Talk, Metro users may face deprioritization during times of network congestion or after heavy usage.
You can purchase Metro phones at plans at Metro authorized retailers.
- Simple selection of plans
- Most plans cost less than T-Mobile plans
- Includes data-saving features to prevent overages and stay inside allotments
- Offers budget phones
- Great coverage on T-Mobile network
- Decent customer service
- No online purchase option
- Rural coverage isn’t great
Straight Talk: Plans
Straight Talk is all about simplicity. They offer three prepaid plans from $35-55 per month. Don’t be tricked by the word “unlimited.” Their unlimited plans are for an allotment of data at 4G LTE speeds that are then slowed down to 2G speeds after it’s used up. Technically, they’re still unlimited, but try sending an email or hopping on YouTube, and you’ll feel the difference quickly.
These are the three plans:
- 3 GB: $35 per month ($34 with Auto-refill)
- 25 GB: $45 per month ($44 with Auto-refill)
- Unlimited+ 10 GB Hotspot: $55 per month ($50/month for three months with Auto-refill)
Along with this, they offer a 2-line, unlimited plan for $90 per month and extended plans for further savings. You can add-on other features like international calling, additional data, and other features on most plans.
Metro by T-Mobile: Plans
All-Metro plans are prepaid and range from $30 to $60 per line with discounts for multiple lines. Like Straight Talk, their lower-priced “unlimited plans” come with a certain allotment of LTE data.
- 2 GB: $30
- 10 GB+ Unlimited Music Streaming*: $40
- Unlimited + 5 GB Hotspot, Google One 100 GB: $50
- Unlimited + 15 GB Hotspot, Google One 100 GB, Amazon Prime: $60
*Unlimited Music allows you to stream music from 40+ music apps without deducting from your LTE allotment.
Winner: Metro. Metro has a cheaper plan for customers on a budget, and its other plans have additional features are a better overall value than Straight Talk.
Straight Talk vs. MetroPCS: Family Plans
Straight Talk doesn’t offer family plans. As mentioned, they do have a 2-line, unlimited plan for $90 a month. This is where Metro really knocks the socks off Straight Talk. Metro has 2-line unlimited, starting at $80 per month.
The more lines you add, the better. You can find 4-line plans for as little as $120 a month too. So be sure to check current promotions. MetroPCS’s only rival when it comes to family plans is Cricket, which is known for the best family plans. These days, however, you can often find better promotions on Metro.
Winner: Metro by T-Mobile
Straight Talk vs. MetroPCS: Coverage and Performance
T-Mobile has made great leaps over the last few years to improve its coverage and performance. In recent industry studies, T-Mobile generally ranks second or third in areas like 4G LTE availability and data speed.
Network availability and performance are all near the top of rankings among all providers. In some places in the US, T-Mobile even has better speeds and reliability than Verizon and AT&T.
Metro uses T-Mobile’s network, so performance and coverage are similar in most places. Put simply, customers of either provider should have any issues. 4G LTE speeds are available across the country, including in many rural areas. In testing, Metro has been determined to provide similar speeds and coverage as T-Mobile.
The major difference between Straight Talk and Metro is the carriers the use. Metro is exclusively linked to T-Mobile. If T-Mobile coverage is reliable in your area, then you’ll have no issue. Your download and upload speeds will be comparable to T-Mobile customers.
The benefit to Straight Talk is you can select any of the four major networks. But you do have to choose one vs. another. You don’t have the advantage of moving from one to another whenever one is best. If you bring an AT&T phone, you’ll use AT&T’s Network. The same goes for Sprint and so on.
If you bring an unlocked device or purchase one from Straight Talk, you’ll use a GSM network, either T-Mobile or AT&T. You can easily search your area to see which provider has the best coverage to make your decision.
Winner: Tie. But, if you’re in an area not served by T-Mobile than Straight Talk.
Straight Talk vs. MetroPCS: Phones
Both Straight Talk and Metro allow you to bring any unlocked device to their network. Straight Talk is cheaper with its $0.99 SIM kit. Metro costs $10, but they also offer a $50 credit to all customers who purchase a SIM online.
Both Straight Talk and MetroPCS have a large selection of budget smartphones for under $300. They also both run frequent promotions where you can find even greater savings. Phone selection is a solid strength of both carriers.
You can also lease phones via installment plans from both carriers. Straight Talk lets you do all of this online. With Metro, you need to do this instore. You don’t lease phone directly through either carrier, however. Straight Talk works with Affinity and Metro with PCS.
With both, you may pay interest rates of up to 10%. You’re better off purchasing a phone outright and skipping the headaches. If you must lease a phone, go directly to the major carriers. You can lease through them or with Apple for no interest, and they often include a variety of incentives.
Straight Talk vs. MetroPCS: Customer Service
The one area where you truly notice the difference between a major carrier and a budget option is customer service. If you thought Sprint’s customer service was bad, wait until you encounter Straight Talk’s.
Expect to solve most of your issues by yourself with Straight Talk. Call wait times are long, there’s no live chat, and even if you do talk to a real person, they may not be able to help you.
Metro isn’t much better. While their online support has improved the last few years, it doesn’t have live chat either and isn’t particularly prompt on social media. Phone reps are a little better but not great at answering questions. At least with Straight Talk, you can get a lot more done on their website.
Ultimately, if you anticipate needing a lot of customer service, you should probably give any budget carrier a pass.
Here are the toll-free numbers for both services:
- Straight Talk: 1-877-430-2355
- Metro: 1-888-863-8768
Winner: Metro (barely).
Straight Talk vs. MetroPCS: Rewards and Perks
Most budget carriers don’t offer perks. It’s one of the things that you sacrifice. This is where Metro sets itself apart. Metro offers free music streaming, Google One, and Amazon Prime on its plans. They also include data maximizer to stream video at lower resolutions to ensure you stay within your plan.
Metro doesn’t have a rewards plan while Straight Talk. With Straight Talk, you can get points for signing up friends, paying your bill on time, and for other things. You can unlock some decent savings each month.
Winner: Metro. The overall perks like music streaming and Amazon Prime are worth more than the about $5 you can save per month with Straight Talk’s rewards program.
Straight Talk vs. MetroPCS: The Bottom Line
Both Straight Talk and MetroPCS are great options over traditional carriers. With them, you can save big on your monthly bill without sacrificing much in terms of coverage and performance.
Overall, Metro by T-Mobile not only beats Straight Talk but is the king of all budget carriers. It’s easy to bring your device, it has excellent network service, and comes with great perks like Amazon and Google One. This is doubly true when you’re bringing multiple lines over. You can really unlock some savings with Metro.
There are a few instances where you still may want to opt for Straight Talk, however. If you live in a rural or another area where T-Mobile has bad coverage, you’re better off with Straight Talk. With it, you can choose the best carrier for the area.
The best thing with either carrier is they don’t require a contract. If you ever feel like swapping out one for another, you can do it easily and inexpensively as long as your phone is compatible.
Head on over to the Buyback Boss Blog to see more of our carrier battles. Check out how these two other budget options, MetroPCS vs. Mint Mobile, stack up. Or see how a budget carrier competes against a national carrier in this showdown between MetroPCS and Verizon.
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