I have used several of these things and they are much of a muchness. Honestly, it is not worth buying before you arrive as that will cost you much more, so only worthwhile if you absolutely need to start contacting people as soon as you land. The other thing to watch is that all of them last for a specified period of time - usually 30, 90 or 365 days, depending on how much you pay initially, and if you don't top them up within that period then the number is dead. So for example, I visit 2 or 3 times a year, buy 30 days worth each trip, but then that number is useless when I return a few months later. Often the phone plus SIM is cheaper than just the SIM (eg ATT GoPhone). The 'free' phone may be crap, but so long as your own phone is unlocked that doesn't matter.
I recently relocated to US from UK. The package deals cost a fortune over here, plus they often require signing up to yearly package etc.
I did the research and discovered a few companies that offer the same deals that the main players offer, yet nearly half the price. The other real important feature is that my chosen provider allow a 30 day contract.
I recommend H2o wireless. $30 gets you unlimited calls and texts for 30 days. $40 gets you the same plus 100mb of data. Don't try calling H20 to order a sim as the customer service is just awful. The best method is to go to the website then click on the link ( top right hand corner) which allows you to interact with customer services, order via this method.
H20 offer both GSM and CDMA services ( basically, if your phone takes sim cards then it's GSM) If you have a smartphone then it'll need to be unlocked.
H20 use the AT&T network so the coverage is great.
Just returned having gone straight to the local ATT shop and bought a sim card for my US $20 telephone. This chip gave me 250 minutes of international calls to the UK and $10 worth of US calls for $35. It could be topped up on the telephone and ATT shops are everywhere. I've always used this system. Next time I shall probably have to buy a new US telephone form ATT. I think they retail at about $30. Why bother with anything else?
If you are an irregular visitor, say once a month or so. I highly recommend T-Mobile deal. You pay $10 for the sim card and get $10 to use. For $2/day you get unlimited data, unlimited Phone calls and SMS within the USA. Of course with data, whatsapp, Skype etc... Work a treat. You can buy the Top up cards, which are available all over the place, and last for 90 days. I was with AT&T but their deal is bad in comparison.
Has anyone used a dongle on a laptop in Alaska. Cruising up the inside passage in a couple of months and just want to know that the family are still OK. Have got PAYG mobile from Vodaphone with me so could text I suppose. Advise appreciated. Thanks Alan
If you are on a cruise ship you will have no service while at sea - only the eye-wateringly expensive ship satellite comms. When in port on any given day you can use your phone (or dongle) but may well be busy doing tours etc. Texting might be the best option if all you want to do is a quick "ops normal" report.