The digital arms race between cyber criminals and security service providers is never-ending, and protecting yourself and your loved ones from online threats is as important as it’s ever been. In fact, considering that almost everybody pays bills, manages their finances, and stores their personal data online (and not just on computers any more, but on mobile devices as well), investing in some sort of digital security solution might be even more vital today than it’s ever been. The easiest and cheapest way to do that is with a good virtual private network, and this roundup of the best cheap VPN deals will have your precious data locked down in no time — while saving you a bit of money in the process.
A VPN can do more than protect you from hackers, though. A virtual private network can also help you avoid threats like intrusive online surveillance to annoyances such as geographic-based streaming restrictions. To get you up to speed with what you need to know about VPNs before you buy, we’ve also included a quick guide that should answer some of your questions.
Today’s best VPN deals
— As low as $0/month
Switzerland-based ProtonVPN is a newer service and has a unique subscription structure, offering several different VPN tiers that range from $0 for a very basic virtual private network up to $24 per month for a professional-grade package (with $4/month and $8/month tiers between these). The free VPN plan offers one encrypted medium-speed connection at a time with servers in three countries, while the upgraded plans improve speeds and allow for more simultaneous VPN connections. All plans feature full encryption, zero data caps, no logs, and no ads, and all work with popular streaming services like Netflix. ProtonVPN is compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android devices.
— As low as $0/month
Like ProtonVPN, TunnelBear is a top-rated VPN that offers a free option, but this one only gets you 500MB of bandwidth per month which won’t amount to much. The better deal by far is the TunnelBear three-year VPN subscription, which is currently on sale for $120 (which comes to $3.33 per month). The yearly plan normally costs $60, so this essentially gives you a third year of service for free. Your plan gives you unlimited protected bandwidth on up to five connected devices.
— As low as $3.33/month
If you’re looking for a relatively long-term subscription plan, PureVPN is definitely one of the better VPN deals right now, but it doesn’t skimp on features in the slightest. PureVPN runs more than 2,000 worldwide servers, allows up to five simultaneous connections on one account, and is compatible with just about any device, browser, and streaming service. Right now, it’s offering its two-year plan for just $79, which comes to a super-affordable $3.33 per month — a great pick if you’re willing to pay upfront for a cheap VPN service you like and then stick with it for a while.
— As low as $8.32/month
ExpressVPN is one of our all-time favorite virtual private networks thanks to its great speeds, ease of use, and unrivaled compatibility with streaming services and devices. That even includes gaming consoles (in fact, it’s perhaps the best choice on our list if you’re looking for a VPN for this) as well as an app you can install right onto your router if needed. Along with that, you get super-fast speeds with no bandwidth caps or data logs and up to five simultaneous connections. ExpressVPN is a premium service that’s a little more expensive than our cheap VPN options, but if you need that unrivaled device compatibility, then you can score a year’s subscription for $100 right now ($8.32 per month).
— As low as $3.71/month
You’ve likely heard of NordVPN and that popularity is well-deserved. It’s another one of our favorite virtual private networks as well as one of the best VPN deals available right now. It uses some of the toughest encryption across its 5,000-plus worldwide servers, and it works great with pretty much all computer and mobile operating systems and streaming devices. NordVPN is one of the top-tier VPNs on the market, but it’s currently running a promotion that lets you score a two-year plan for $3.71 per month for up to six of your devices..
– As low as $2.69/month
PrivateInternetAccess is another award-winning virtual private network that operates more than 3,300 servers in 31 countries around the world. The VPN software is a bit bare-bones, but the VPN itself is very effective; if you value simplicity and value, then PrivateInternetAccess performs very well with good data speeds (something we confirmed in our hands-on tests). It’s compatible with pretty much all common devices and software ecosystems — Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux — and as a nice bonus, your subscription lets you cover 10 devices simultaneously instead of the usual five or six.
The annual subscription to PrivateInternetAccess VPN costs $40 if you pay for a year upfront, which rings in at $3.33 per year — about the same as other cheap VPNs. However, a $70 subscription for two years knocks the monthly price down to $2.69.
– As low as $5/month
TorGuard is a very highly regarded VPN and a name you might have already heard of if you’ve been doing research on the subject, and it’s popular for a reason: TorGuard is purpose-built for peer-to-peer use. It’s slightly pricier than some cheap VPNs (although not prohibitively so by any means), but with no speed or bandwidth caps and up to eight simultaneous connections, you definitely get your money’s worth.
The TorGuard software client works on virtually all devices (minus gaming consoles) and you can even control it in real-time via a handy browser extension while you’re using the web. There are several subscription plans available, but the best value is the $60/year plan which comes to only $5 per month.
A beginner’s guide To VPNs
Virtual private networks, or VPNs, are fairly straightforward in how they operate. Their most basic function is to encrypt your internet connection and route it through remote servers run by the VPN provider across various locations (usually multiple countries). This “tunnel” hides your IP address — the unique fingerprint, not entirely unlike a phone number, that shows your general location along with other information — by replacing it with that of the VPN’s server.
By tunneling and encrypting your connection in this manner, a VPN both protects your privacy and keeps your data safe from prying eyes. Even your ISP can’t see what you’re doing, and if by some chance a hacker was somehow able to penetrate this tunnel (highly unlikely), the encryption would prevent any intelligible data from being stolen. That’s not all a VPN does, though; this remote connection also allows you to bypass geographic restrictions such as government censorship and region-locked content. That means you can say goodbye to those annoying “content not available in your country” error messages.
Are VPNs Legal?
Virtual private networks are legal in almost every country, including every Western country. A few nations including Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea have banned or restricted the use of VPNs, however, although some may still work in those countries. Also note that while using a VPN to bypass regional restrictions on sites like Netflix and YouTube is not against the law, it does typically violate the terms of service (something to be aware of).
It should go without saying that any activity that is illegal without a VPN is still illegal when using one. Although the best VPN providers often promise that they do not keep logs, there is really no way to be 100% sure of this, and there have been instances of these companies handing over user information to law enforcement during the course of a criminal investigation.
Do VPNs block ads?
The purpose of a VPN is first and foremost to protect your privacy, and while the main way they do this is through encryption and remote server connections, most providers also offer additional features such as ad-blocking, online malware protection, and other extras that security-conscious people (exactly the kind who would use a VPN) want.
Do VPNs change your IP?
The short answer is yes, but technically, a VPN is not so much changing your IP as it is masking it. Your own IP address remains the same, but only your VPN (more specifically, the VPN’s server you happened to be connected to) can see it. As you are connecting to other websites and services through the VPN’s server, that server IP is what is seen on the other end of the connection. As long as you are behind your VPN, your IP remains hidden.
Are VPNs safe?
If you stick with trusted providers like the ones above then you can be sure that your data is safe and that your VPN service is doing what it says it’s doing (and what you’re paying for). VPNs are typically very easy to operate, with intuitive and user-friendly software that leaves little room for error. If you want to be sure, though, then you can always your VPN is set up and working properly.to see that
Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.