If you’ve been searching for the ideal Virtual Private Network (VPN), you’ll probably have met Private Internet Access (PIA). It’s one of those products that pop up in almost all of the industry’s Top 10s, so most users consider giving it a try.
If that sounds like you, there’s no need to pay the full price straight away. As with other VPNs, Private Internet Access offers a way to enjoy its services free of charge. This isn’t a regular free trial, however, so let’s find out how this deal works.
Introducing Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access was founded by Andrew Lee in 2010 and remains one of the most respected VPNs around. Based in the United States of America, it operates a global server network, with a presence in 46 countries, from Singapore to Mexico.
PIA VPN tends to rank highly regardless of whether you’re talking about Windows, Mac, Android, or Linux platforms. And that’s no surprise. The VPN is regularly praised for its privacy standards, speeds, a wide choice of clients, and torrenting features.
However, most of those reviews focus on the full-price PIA client. But in this review, we’re more interested in whether PIA offers a free trial service, and how this compares to the competition.
Understanding the role of free VPNs
Before we dive into the specifics, it’s worth recapping why free VPNs should be treated differently to full-price versions.
Often, VPN providers invest much more energy and money into perfecting their premium packages but still offer free versions to entice entry-level users. Some people stick with these free versions, even though their performance level isn’t optimal. And in some cases, that’s not a problem. Although it’s rare, free VPNs can be perfectly functional.
However, they often aren’t. In the worst cases, free VPNs can pose security risks which make them barely more useful than a proxy. And many also come with annoying ads which make the experience of using a VPN much less convenient.
You wouldn’t expect those issues to apply to a service which dubs itself “the world’s most trusted VPN”, but things can be deceptive. So we need to look beneath the hood to assess what the Private Internet Access free trial really offers and whether it’s worth trying.
How does the Private Internet Access free trial work?
The first thing we need to explain is that Private Internet Access doesn’t offer a free trial version as a standard option. Some VPNs let you download a version of their client which can be upgraded to the real thing for a monthly fee. That’s not the route PIA has chosen.
Instead, PIA has opted to provide a 30-day money-back guarantee. This may not sound much like a free trial, but it essentially functions in the same way.
You can choose your package from the available options, provide payment details, and then fire up the VPN. If you don’t like what you find, you have the option of submitting a cancellation request.
Can you sign up anonymously?
Yes, users are able to start a Private Internet Access free trial without handing over their credit card details. That’s a neat feature, which most VPNs don’t include.
Here’s how it works: Just purchase a gift card from businesses like Walmart or Starbucks, and head to the Private Internet Access signup page. Here, you can enter the number from your gift card and pay in the same way you would if you were buying a latte.
Key features of the Private Internet Access free trial
When you start a free trial, you’ll be able to download the full Private Internet Access client and access the full range of servers. Here are some of the key features on offer which sets PIA apart:
- Flexible encryption settings. Unlike many VPNs, users can choose maximum security with 256-bit AES encryption, faster connections with 128-bit encryption and SHA1 authentication, even quicker speeds with SHA1 turned off, and ultra-fast, but less well-protected settings. So there’s a configuration for everyone’s needs.
- Over 3300 servers in 46 countries. While the bulk of PIA’s servers are based in the USA, the company has a genuinely global footprint, offering great services for travelers and those who want to route their traffic through distant regions.
- Wide client choice. Pick an app for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android phones, or iOS.
- Strong P2P support. Torrenting isn’t an issue with PIA, and the VPN also caters for the SOCKS5 proxy, which is often the fastest way to handle torrent connections.
- 10 simultaneous devices. That should be enough for student households, hippie communes, and families.
- Industry-leading protocols. Experiment with different security protocols, including WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2.
- Unlimited data for all accounts. PIA won’t be stingy with data, which makes it ideal for streaming fans. However, here we do need to note that the VPN isn’t the best option for Netflix users. PIA has struggled to implement Netflix workarounds, so alternatives may be advisable for members of the streaming platform.
Getting started with the free trial
To get started, head to the PIA download page and choose the relevant client. There are versions for Windows, Android, macOS, Linux, and iOS, as well as special browser add-ons for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.
After that, load up the client and you’ll be presented with the option to join. This takes you to the PIA payment portal. Don’t worry, no payments are final until the 30 days have elapsed. Just add your details or gift card credit and complete the signup process.
When that’s done, load up the client and choose your server. The whole global PIA network will be available to explore.
Canceling the trial
As we noted earlier, there’s no actual Private Internet Access free trial, at least not in the conventional sense. Instead, if you aren’t interested in becoming a regular customer, you’ll have to cancel the package you choose before 30 days have passed.
This is important. If you miss the cancelation deadline, you will be charged for the duration of the contract you selected. This means it’s usually best to choose the shortest initial signup period. That way, if you mess up the cancelation process, it won’t cost too much.
Here’s how to cancel:
- Load up the Private Internet Access website and choose the Sign In option.
- Log into your PIA account and choose the My Subscription option.
- Tell PIA why you are canceling (don’t worry about being honest here).
- Now, head to the Support option and click the link entitled “How Do I Request a Refund?”
- Click Via this Form and follow the prompts.
It’s a lengthy process, but it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes, unless you want to write an essay about your experience with PIA. And when it’s done, you won’t need to pay another penny.
Should you use the PIA free trial in 2020?
Hopefully, by now you have a good idea of what Private Internet Access has to offer. Overall, it’s definitely part of the VPN elite, and it has plenty of strong points.
But be aware that it’s not the best option out there. It’s a bit weak on streaming, doesn’t offer a genuine free trial, and presents issues for those worried about official surveillance.
Still, if you are willing to work a little to cancel your subscription and need a high-quality free VPN for a week, it’s a great choice.