Based on where you are, you can be very limited in what you can see online. In addition to security, VPN has become important modern tools to eliminate the limitation of important causes (dissidents in oppressive regimes) and perhaps a little scary (look at streaming content on services in other countries).
But how about using a VPN to see something else? Like … big money savings?
In theory you can, especially on a big budget trip. Hotels, cars and flights are extremely expensive – and it is sensible that providers of such services would try to look like they offer bargains when they are still trying to squeeze all the money they can from your digital pockets. [1
There are many other things to keep in mind than just making sure you are in Italy rather than in the US when you do some online shopping. There are fees for using credit cards abroad in some cases, for example. It can quickly eat a little savings, and that was not something I wanted to test.
I looked at this with a real methodology: I chose a flight, a rental car and a hotel, plus a bundled book on Amazon, a music streaming service and a video streaming service to check prices for some different servers with a few different VPN services.
For testing, I used PCMag's two editorial choices for best free VPN services: ProtonVPN and TunnelBear VPN. Why, if the point is to save money, why use a paid VPN?
It is said that free VPN has some serious limitations. Read this article above to see what's potentially missing if you do not pay for a full subscription. For example, ProtonVPN lets you only use the free version for a limited time; TunnelBear has limited traffic of 500 MB per month. Therefore, I also checked this with my personal paid VPN service, KeepSolid's VPN Unlimited .
I used it all on a Razer Blade Stealth laptop running Windows 10 with 32GB of RAM so that even the slowest tunnel over the internet did
And this is what I found: Not much savings.
Let's start with streaming . I went online as if I were in the UK using VPN, and found Spotify Premium at $ 9.99 per month (after three months for only $ 0.99). It sounds nicely comparable to the US price of $ 9.99 per month, but the price in sterling is $ 12.63 USD. Clearly, people in Britain want the lower US price, saving around $ 25.92 as long as they are willing to log in to their VPN all the time to pretend they are American. But what happens if you want to play Spotify on other devices that do not have VPN access, like an Amazon Alexa-based smart speaker?
The Netflix standard price in Great Britain is £ 7.99 ($ 10.18) available and two simultaneous streams. Standard in US is $ 10.99 (£ 8.62UK).
As said, you can log in to your Netflix account when you log in to a VPN with another country's server to avoid being geo blocked. This allows you to see shows you can not get in your home country (at least not on Netflix). I did it and found Poldark, Suits (for Meghan Markle), Doctor Who and others show on UK Netflix but not Netflix USA. It's good on a computer or even a handheld device, but it's worthless if you're watching Netflix on a smart TV or game console without VPN options.
I watch the most of my streaming TV on a 60 "HD TV, using an Xbox One as a cheap streaming media hub, so using a VPN to pretend I'm somewhere else to stream is unusable for me. (For more, read the best VPN for Netflix.)
For bookstore I looked at Amazon.com for the latest Stephen King novel Elevation now out in several formats. The price of the bound book in the US on Cyber Monday was down to $ 9.39, without even using a VPN. Guess what? Same price if I logged in to any VPN, whether I watched via USA or UK or Italy.
Let's try travel where the items are particularly costly and the dynamic pricing changes between places
I watched airplane from Sydney, Australia, to Los Angeles (LAX) for an adult trip on January 7, 2019 and returned on January 11th. I used Kayak to search, clear cookies between searches. It did not matter much. Base price without VPN connection was $ 2,146.63 for the best flight without layovers via United. If I logged in with ProtonVPN as if I were in Italy, I got the price at $ 2,127 (not even $ 20). With TunnelBear via Italy, I got the price back to $ 2,141. But then I went to United.com and it dropped to $ 1,842. Oh, and log in as a UK user of VPN Unlimited, I found another non-stop flight, this from Virgin Australia, for £ 1,975-it's $ 2,533.94 of this writing.
Things did not change much of my choice for a car hire (from Hertz at Philadelphia Airport for a week in January). I wanted an SUV and found without VPN they would have a price of $ 80.44 per day. with VPN I could not even do an SUV no, I do not want a frieze Chevrolet Spark-including using Milan, Italy's server for KeepSolid VPN Unlimited. Argh.
Finally I saw a hotel I have actually stayed in Venice, Italy (Italy's server use), Grand Hotel Dei Dogi, a Marriott property. Without a VPN, the room I wanted was 157 euros. It did not change with the two free VPNs. with VPN Unlimited claiming that I was in Milan, the price increased to 188 euros. Conclusions: Confusing
I will not say definitively that you absolutely can not save thousands of dollars-as TechRadar claims-with acceptable use of a VPN. If you're willing to shop around and around, change your virtual location, delete tracking cookies and cached pages in your browser with each switch, all to find the bargain find that can be bought in your actual location with your credit card, then get crazy. A very special kind of shopper is required to go to such technical extremes.
It has obviously worked for some sockets. TheBestVPN claims that $ 1,300 + savings were found on just one air ticket by switching virtual sites. I tried to replicate their findings by using a VPN set to the US and Poland about different searches for flights from KUL to LAX … but BestVPN did not say which places were used to book the trip. Expedia had the same prices on the same flights, regardless of whether I logged in from a server in Manhattan or Warsaw.
Using a VPN would of course just be standard. It saves money if you have not stolen your identity when you should have wasted during internet usage. It's not concrete, tangible or sexy money, but it's smart to do.