Top 5 Free (or Freemium) VPNs That Actually Work

You know you need a VPN to access your favorite Netflix content, hide your browsing habits from ISPs and governments, or protect your data from third party advertisers. But how does it actually work?

How VPNs Work

To put it simply, VPNs (which stands for Virtual Private Network, in case you’re wondering) work by connecting you to a secure network of servers. When you’re connected to this network, your traffic (Google searches, for example) is routed through the network to a server that acts as an intermediary. This server then sends your traffic request to the site you’re trying to access.

All while encrypting your data.

By doing this, both your computer (your network and anybody watching, such as your ISP) and the site you’re visiting can only see the VPN server. This detaches your internet activity from your IP address and keeps you hidden and secure.

Some VPNs do a better job of this than others. That’s why it’s always a good idea to check if you’re using a good, trusted, and secure VPN, especially when it’s free.

Why use a free VPN? What’s the difference between free and paid?

Glad you asked.

With our extensive testing of various VPN services, we’ve learned that there’s a distinct difference between free and paid VPNs. The bottom line is that you’ll always be better off with a paid VPN. In most cases, you get what you pay for.

Some VPNs start as low as $5-10 per month. If you’re serious about your privacy, this is a worthwhile expense.

But if paying is not an option, read on.

Generally speaking, free VPNs are the same as regular VPNs, but with restrictions such as:

  • Limited bandwidth
  • Limited access to servers and locations
  • Slower performance
  • Limited protocols and encryptions
  • No access to Netflix or torrent-friendly servers

Found a free VPN with high data allowance? It’s probably very slow and useless for streaming. Got a free VPN with good speeds? You’ll probably only have enough data allowance for one episode of your favorite Netflix show. Two if you’re lucky.

Since these VPN services need to earn money somehow, they’re also more likely to mine your data so that it can be sold on to third-parties like marketing agencies.

Not all free VPNs are like this and you’ll be pleased to know that there are some fantastic ones out there. We’ve tested these so that you don’t have to—just download them and go!

It’s worth noting that these are freemium VPNs. This means they have free plans in addition to their paid, premium options. This is because VPNs that are 100% free tend to be really bad because they have no way to make money, which means they have limited resources to develop their service.

Best Freemium VPNs

Without further ado, here are the 5 best freemium VPNs we’ve tested. For in-depth reviews on each one, check out our full list of VPN reviews.

1. Windscribe

Windscribe is our favorite freemium VPN service. It’s very popular with their users, too. A Canadian-based company, Windscribe operates servers all over the world and was founded in 2015 by Yegor Sak (who is quite active in talking to the community!).

Freemium Plan Details
Windscribe’s free version is pretty good as far as free VPN plans go. With the free plan, you get 10GB/month with access to servers across 10 different countries. You also get the same speeds as their premium users, and none of your information is monitored, mined, stored, logged, or sold on to third parties. Plus, there’s a built-in firewall and ad blocker.

Freemium Plan Limits
Limitations with Windscribe do begin to show up when you start to look at what’s on offer to premium members. For premium members, Windscribe offers over 50 different locations and there are no data caps.

Read our verdict of Windscribe here
Get Windscribe Free

2. Hide.me

Another relatively good freemium VPN service is Hide.me. The company’s based in Malaysia and calls itself the “world’s fastest VPN” that lets you “take back your freedom.” Bold statements, right?

Freemium Plan Details
When using Hide.me’s free service, you still get the good stuff like IP leak protection, a kill switch, one-click connect, and split tunneling. Malaysia is not part of any intergovernmental agreements (e.g. 5 Eyes) either, so your information is safe. Also, the connection speeds are respectable, and you won’t be bombarded with ads.

Freemium Plan Limits

On their free plan, you can only connect to certain countries and none of these include Europe or the United States. This might be a dealbreaker for some of you. In addition to this, your data transfer is capped at 500MB that only renews every two weeks.

Read our verdict of Hide.me here
Get Hide.me Free

3. Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield is a well-known VPN provider and you have probably come across them in one form or another before. They have apps for virtually everything, including browser extensions and mobile devices. While they don’t exactly get the best press online, it’s far from being a ‘bad’ freemium service, particularly when you compare it to what’s available!

Freemium Plan Details

When using the free version of Hotspot Shield, you will still manage to pull impressive download speeds and your traffic is protected and encrypted to the same extent as their premium plan.

Freemium Plan Limits

You’ll only be able to use one of their servers based in the United States, and this can only be accessed from a single device. When accessing content from certain sources, (e.g. the BBC or Hulu) you’ll see a premium payment wall. As for Netflix, it doesn’t work at all. They’ve also opted to include banner ads as part of the freemium plan, and you’re limited to 500MB per day. Still, this is far better than Hide.me’s 500MB every two weeks.

Read our verdict of Hotspot Shield here
Get Hotspot Shield Free

4. ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN hasn’t been around for all that long, but they’ve certainly made an impression on us. It’s a private and secure service that’s available across several devices, including Linux and iOS. Their founders are scientists who met each other at CERN and started the secure ProtonMail project, so they don’t mess around with their technology.

Freemium Plan Details

Built with security in mind, ProtonVPN has an ultra-secure core architecture that is backed up with AES-256 encryption, supplemented with 2048-bit RSA, HMAC, and SHA256. It uses the OpenVPN protocol, too, which is the industry standard for security. All this is available for both free and premium users. Unlike the other freemium plans we’ve looked at, ProtonVPN doesn’t have any data caps or limitations.

Freemium Plan Limits

Although there are no data limits, you can only use ProtonVPN’s free version on one device and, at the time of writing, there are only three countries that include free servers. It also doesn’t work with Netflix. Speeds are OK, but they’re not the best.

Read our verdict of ProtonVPN here
Get ProtonVPN Free

5. TunnelBear

One of the most newbie-friendly VPN services in existence, TunnelBear is known for all the right reasons. The best thing about TunnelBear by far is how easy it is to use; it’s a plug-in-and-play VPN that works without you needing to configure settings or manually install additional components. It’s worth noting that TunnelBear is now owned by McAfee, A US-based company, which brings with it some potential concerns.

Freemium Plan Details

Aside from how easy it is to use, TunnelBear’s free users benefit from not having any of their data or information logged and disseminated. Unlike Hotspot Shield, there are no ads, and the speeds are respectable.

Freemium Plan Limits

Data transfer is capped at 500MB per month on the freemium plan. Tweeting about the company gets you an extra 1GB (clever, right?). Like the other freemium VPNs we’ve reviewed, you can only access a small handful of locations and servers, and it doesn’t work with Netflix.

Read our verdict of TunnelBear here
Get TunnelBear Free

VPNs With Amazing Free Trials

Most VPN providers will offer some form of free trial for their premium VPN service. In almost all cases, a free trial will give you complete access to the VPN product for a certain amount of time. That means anywhere between 1 and 30 days. After the trial period, you’ll have to subscribe to a premium plan to keep using the service.

These VPNs offer the full premium product during their free trial period:

1. Trust.Zone

Trust.Zone’s free trial lets you use their VPN service for 3 days. You’ll be able to access 141 locations—not quite as many as the 164 offered to their subscribers—and unlimited bandwidth.

Also included is 1GB of data transfer and one simultaneous connection at any given time. (Premium subscribers get unlimited data transfer and can have three simultaneous connections.)

Although the Trust.Zone trial is only for 3 days, it still provides you with an opportunity to try out their VPN and test out over 140 different locations.

Read our verdict of Trust.Zone here
Get Trust.Zone Free

2. HideMyAss

HideMyAss is owned and operated by McAfee, the California-based security technology company. There’s a 7-day free trial on offer for all new customers. After the 7 days, you will be automatically billed for a 12-month subscription, so make sure to stop this by canceling before the trial period ends.

During the trial period, customers can access the full HideMyAss VPN product. This includes total privacy and protection, strong encryption, OpenVPN protocol, and consistent server speeds in locations all around the world.

Read our verdict of HideMyAss here
Get HideMyAss Free

3. VyprVPN

VyprVPN offers a 3-day trial for either one of their paid plans. So you can choose between the regular plan for up to 3 devices, or the premium plan which gives you a 5-device limit, access to the cloud server, and the Chameleon protocol which blocks VPN blockers.

Its slick desktop app is easy to use and VyprVPN delivers on speed, features, and a variety of locations. Full access to the VyprVPN product includes all the great security features paid-up members get, such as the choice of encryption or protocols used.

Read our verdict of VyprVPN here
Get VyprVPN Free

VPNs With Perfect Money-Back Guarantees

Instead of a free trial, some VPNs offer money-back guarantees. This may be a better option since the “trial period” tends to be longer. As long as you’re willing to pay upfront and get the money back later, this is essentially a type of free trial you can take advantage of.

Typically, the money-back guarantee is valid between 7 to 30 days. If you purchase a VPN subscription and aren’t satisfied, you can get your money back simply by asking for a refund within the given time period.
By doing this repeatedly, you can use premium VPN services for months without spending any money.

Here are three great VPNs that have awesome money-back guarantees:

1. ExpressVPN

Often called the best VPN money can buy, ExpressVPN offers their first-time customers with a 30-day money-back guarantee, no questions asked. Their guarantee lasts for exactly 30 days: if you place an order on the 1st of the month, you can contact customer support for a refund at any point before the 30th.

Money-back guarantees are often much better because you get to access the full product rather than a watered-down version, and this is the case with ExpressVPN. You’ll be able to access awesome features such as:

  • Foreign Netflix content
  • Super-fast speeds on ultra-secure servers
  • Worldwide locations
  • 24-hour live chat support

Read our verdict of ExpressVPN here
Visit ExpressVPN

2. NordVPN

Just like ExpressVPN, NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee that lets you explore the full NordVPN service without any restrictions (they also have a free trial, but this is only for 7 days). Their customer support team is available 24/7 and you can get your money back without any questions asked.

NordVPN is another fantastic VPN service that is virtually identical to ExpressVPN in all but name. It regularly features highly on VPN review sites because of its:

  • Secure, strong encryption and protocols
  • Compatibility with Netflix
  • No logging and torrent-friendly policy
  • Double data protection

One downside is that NordVPN is more expensive if you want to pay month-to-month as opposed to annually. So that’s something to consider if think you might subscribe to their service long-term.

Read our verdict of NordVPN here
Visit NordVPN

3. Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access is a well-known VPN provider that offers new customers a 7-day money-back guarantee. Although this timeframe pales in comparison to Express or Nord, it’s still enough time to get familiar with the service and decide whether it’s for you.

All refund requests must be made in writing and submitted via email to helpdesk@privateinternetaccess.com.

Private Internet Access offers fast speeds, a variety of locations, and a budget-friendly price. They don’t log or keep any information. You can also make Bitcoin payments.

Read our verdict of PIA here
Visit PIA

VPNs Don’t Need to Cost Money

If you look around and do your research, it’s easy to get all the benefits of a VPN without paying any money. While we do recommend investing in a good VPN if you plan to use one in the long-run, for occasional or temporary use there are many options available.

Free VPNs, free trials, and money-back guarantees all let you access a VPN at no cost. Obviously, the quality of the service, as well as the service limitations, will vary greatly depending on which plan you go with (hint: premium VPNs are always better). We hope we’ve helped you go over some of these differences in this post.

For those of you that simply want the best with no hassle, check our list of the best VPN reviews.