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If you want to figure out how much a VPN costs, you probably know already what it is. But for the sake of clarity, a VPN (or Virtual Private Network) solution is a cybersecurity application to provide you with anonymity on the net. When using a VPN tool, all your online communications travel through an encrypted tunnel.
In addition to protecting your privacy, a VPN service can also spoof your location and thus grant you access to geo-restricted websites. This is how 30% of VPN users can stream Netflix from all over the world, for example. But, we could also mention P2P file-sharing (torrenting) and online gaming as two of the main reasons for having a VPN installed.
Apart from everyday users, travelers, investigative journalists, political and environmental activists, and hackers are also among those who can take advantage of this technology.
Apart from everyday users, travelers, investigative journalists, political and environmental activists, and hackers are also among those who can take advantage of this technology. For some of them, it can be a question of (a ruined) life or death.
How much does a VPN cost? Well, in general, it costs way less than the price you’d pay in case of a privacy breach or personal data leak.
First, let’s see why a VPN costs money at all.
VPN price – what are you paying for?
You may have learned the hard way that, in this life, everything has a price tag. VPN services are no exceptions. Even if you find the web swarming with hundreds of free VPN apps, you’ll soon discover that they all come with a price.
Of course, in the case of free VPNs, that price is not measured in money. In general, you could be flooded with third-party pop-up ads, your connections and activities could be logged, your personal information could be sold to third parties, your speeds could be slow, you may only use a limited number of servers, your bandwidth may be limited as well, and so on.
VPNs cost lots of money for companies to maintain: buy, rent, and maintain VPN servers all over the world, software development, marketing, live chat support, and so on.
Let’s get something straight. VPNs cost lots of money for companies to maintain. They need to buy, rent, and maintain VPN servers all over the world in data centers. Not to mention other VPN costs like software development, marketing, live chat support, and so on.
Some hardcore VPN providers have so-called bare metal servers, which are physical servers dedicated exclusively to them. These are supposed to be more secure since there’s no third-party or middleman involved. To rent such servers is surely more costly than to rent shared IP addresses on a shared server.
Of course, we won’t feel sorry for these providers for all their VPN cost related “headaches” since we’re talking about a $20+ billion per year business. They’re doing “just fine,” no worries.
The VPN price is, for many, the maker or breaker when choosing a service. If a VPN costs you more than you can afford, you may not care about the great security features it has. Right?
Therefore, when looking for the best choice, at some point you arrive to the inevitable question, “How much does this VPN cost?”
Essentially, there are three service types when it comes to VPN cost:
- Premium free trial
- Paid or Premium
Well, clearly there’s no VPN cost included here. Although, we’ve mentioned above the indirect “VPN price” you may pay for a free service.
Premium free trial
When a VPN has no free version, it’s possible that it’ll have a premium free trial option. It’s also known as the freemium version. Of course, many VPNs have no such free trial. In any case, if you can choose to have a free trial, it’s likely that you’ll have to provide your payment details. You won’t be charged for the trial period. However, you need to be very careful about this. While certain reliable VPN providers will probably notify you a few days before the deadline, some may not do so.
If you forget to cancel your subscription in time, you’d be charged for a monthly or an annual plan.
Guess what happens if you forget to cancel your subscription in time. Yes, the worst case scenario is that you’d be charged for an annual plan. This could mean $70-$90 off your bank account. In the best case scenario, you’d pay for a monthly plan, which is usually around $10. Still, your free trial could end up with a VPN price tag on it.
Always read the small print when signing up for a premium free trial. Why would a VPN cost you, when you just want a free trial?
Paid or Premium VPN pricing
VPN providers usually have 3-4 pricing plans or subscriptions for you. The most popular plans are the following:
- 1-month: $7-$13
- 3-month: $5-$12/month
- 6-month: $4-$11/month
- 1-year: $3-$10/month
- 2-year: $3-$9/month
- 3-year: $3/month
Naturally, you may find a bit cheaper or a bit more pricy VPNs as well. Nevertheless, these are the average VPN prices we’ve seen so far.
Occasionally, you’ll find 5-year plans or lifetime subscriptions as well. However, we wouldn’t advise you to settle with those. No provider can really guarantee what the future will bring for IT and cybersecurity. We believe that it’s safer to go for a 1, 2, or 3-year subscription.
In fact, it’s mostly these pricing plans that may offer the best VPN price for you. Sometimes you can save up to 60-70% or more if you go for a longer plan.
There could also be extra costs that may increase your VPN price in the end. Some VPNs offer more device licenses, more server locations, or dedicated IP addresses for some extra money. Others may simply include these in their pricing plans.
VPN special deals
If you’re lucky and your timing is right, you can reduce your monthly VPN cost to an even more reasonable amount. This is when VPN special deals come into play. Although it’s possible that a provider makes a strategic move and comes out with a huge discount on a random day, most deals are specifically timed.
What better way to offer a special deal than linking it to a national holiday or an event? That’s why it’s worth browsing with your eyes wide open around the following:
- Black Friday
- Cyber Monday
- New Year
- Valentine’s day
Of course, there are huge differences in discounts as well as VPN prices even if it’s a special deal. You may find VPNs from as little as $1.15/m with an 89% save, for example. While other top-notch players may only drop 50% of their usual VPN price.
VPN price discounts – coupons
Another way to lower your VPN cost is to get a coupon code and apply it on the subscription purchase screen. How much does a VPN cost with a coupon code?
First off, beware of fake VPN coupon websites. These may infect your device or simply display misleading and potentially harmful pop-up and banner ads.
If you want the real deal, you have two choices. First, you can find lots of affiliated VPN review websites that offer coupons for many VPNs. These coupons can save you from 15% to 80% off the original VPN price. Second, sometimes the official VPN websites also share coupon codes.
So, before you hastily hit the buy button, it’s worth snooping around for a discounted VPN price.
The most important thing you need to know about payment methods is that there are anonymous and not-so-privacy-friendly options. Unfortunately, most VPNs usually support only the latter. However, there are more and more VPN services that allow you to pay anonymously. It’s a privacy tool after all, isn’t it? We wonder why not all providers are ready to include anonymous payment in their repertoire.
The primary VPN payment methods include:
- Credit or debit cards (American Express, Visa, and MasterCard)
Many VPN providers only have these two basic options. Others give you further payment methods, though these are still not anonymous:
- Wire transfer
- Paymentwall (Alipay, Webmoney, iDeal, UnionPay, Qiwi, etc.)
Fortunately, there are those who take your privacy seriously and thus provide an extra layer of anonymity:
- Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dash, Emercoin, and Byteball
- Gift cards and prepaid cards
Please bear in mind that choosing an anonymous payment option may have an unfortunate consequence regarding your potential refund claim. The refund policy or the purchase page small print should include information about this. Long story short, you may not be eligible for a refund if you use a cryptocurrency, a gift card, or a prepaid card.
How much does a VPN cost when you can ask for a refund? Well, nothing. The good news is that most VPN providers offer this option. However, as usual, you can’t always take it for granted as we just mentioned.
Not all VPN services come with a free version or a free premium trial. Therefore, many users try to count on the money-back guarantee to test their chosen VPN app. If they aren’t satisfied, they can always ask for a refund. Or, can they?
The thing is, refunds can be tricky. First of all, you need to know how many days you have to claim it without the VPN costing you a thing. Providers can grant you different time spans for the money-back guarantee. So, you’d better make sure you get it right.
Most VPNs will offer 3, 7, 14, 30, 31, 32, or 45 days for a refund. But, and it is a big but, this may not be the only condition to be eligible at all. Therefore, we advise you always to read the legal documents carefully to find out about the refund policy.
A reliable service will probably have a “no questions asked” and “full money-back” guarantee. It’s mostly promoted on the website too so that you know right away what to expect.
Be more cautious with those who have further limitations and conditions apart from the time span, though. Don’t take the “30-day money-back guarantee” promotions on the website for granted. You need to read the refund policy carefully.
Some VPNs, for example, have bandwidth usage limitations. But you may also not be eligible for a refund from the provider if you bought your VPN from a third-party vendor or paid with a cryptocurrency or a gift card.
Not being aware of these conditions or forgetting the deadline will undoubtedly increase your VPN cost.
How much is a VPN in 2021?
Well, based on the VPN pricing trends of 2020, we can only offer you general statements. Some VPNs will probably try to keep their prices unless the market dictates otherwise. Some will certainly decrease their VPN price, some may even increase their pricing plans a bit.
One thing’s for sure, however: if you’re lucky or thorough, you may get your desired VPN at a discounted special price. This could mean being anonymous and protected online for about $2-$3 per month – the price of a mini Coffee Frappuccino.
If you want to make the most out of your tight budget, we recommend reading our cheapest VPNs list to pick a cheap and, at the same time, reliable VPN.
If your main criterion when choosing a VPN is high quality, then the best VPNs overall list is the one for you.
Disclaimer: Affiliate links help us produce good content. Learn more.
Ethan is a security researcher and digital privacy advocate. He spends his time unraveling various anonymity and security tools, plus contributing to open-source projects. Otherwise, he keeps a low profile by hiking or cycling around the countryside.