Have you ever noticed that prices online seem to fluctuate randomly? Or that your favorite pair of sneakers costs way more when you check back later? You‘re not going crazy – retailers really are adjusting prices based on your browsing history and other data. Virtual private networks (VPNs) are a powerful tool we can use to fight back against these shady pricing practices and save real money in the process.
In this guide, we‘ll break down how price discrimination works, when you should leverage a VPN to uncover lower prices, and real-world examples that show the hard dollar savings a VPN can deliver. Arm yourself with knowledge and take control of your wallet!
Dynamic Pricing and Price Discrimination – What Gives?
Imagine this scenario – you‘ve finally decided to book that dream vacation to Hawaii. As you‘re monitoring flight prices over a few weeks, you notice they start creeping higher and higher. What gives?
Unfortunately, you‘ve likely been identified by the airline as a prime target for price discrimination. The technical term is "dynamic pricing" – adjusting prices constantly based on supply, demand, and other factors. On the surface this makes sense. Limit seats left on a flight? Prices go up.
But airlines and retailers also change prices based on your personal browsing and shopping patterns. If they see you obsessively monitoring a particular route, they may assume you‘re desperate and will pay any cost. So they crank up the prices just for you.
One study by Northeastern University and the University of Southern California looked specifically at this practice among airlines. Researchers found:
- 42 out of 372 flight searches (11%) yielded different prices when using a VPN and clearing cookies
- On average, the price difference was $111 per flight or 4% of the total fare
So how do we fight back against this shady practice? Virtual private networks.
How VPNs Can Uncover the Lowest Prices
VPNs allow you to browse the internet through servers around the world, masking your real location. When you route your traffic through a server in another country, websites will think you are accessing them from that country instead.
This allows you to do two key things:
- Clear all tracking cookies and browsing history. By deleting cookies and originating an entirely new search through the VPN, sites can‘t identify and target you based on past browsing.
- Compare pricing differences across regions. Companies frequently charge varying prices based on geography. Connecting via VPN allows you to uncover the lowest worldwide pricing.
Follow these steps when shopping online to leverage a VPN‘s money-saving power:
- Sign up for a premium VPN service (more on the best options below)
- Delete all cookies and browsing history from your device
- Connect to the VPN app and select a server in a different country
- Use a private browser window to conduct new product searches
- Compare prices across different server locations to identify the lowest cost
5 Proven Ways to Save with a VPN
Now that you understand the why and how of using a VPN to score deals, let‘s look at real ways this technique can save you money across popular spending categories:
Snag Cheaper Flights
The study cited above found flights discounted by 4% on average when using a VPN to clear tracking and compare international prices. On a $500 round-trip fare, that‘s $20 in savings with this simple trick.
Slash Hotel Costs
Hotel pricing is extremely dynamic based on demand and local events. A search for hotels in Los Angeles yielded an $88/night room when connected to a VPN through Salt Lake City vs. $123/night directly from LA – 29% cheaper!
|Los Angeles Search||$123/night|
|Salt Lake City Search (VPN)||$88/night|
Score Discounted Game Downloads
Rumors swirl of VPNs providing access to cheaper game downloads, especially for platforms like Steam with international pricing variance. No guarantees, but it‘s worth testing out if you‘re a avid gamer.
Lower Your Streaming and Subscription Costs
Services like Netflix and Spotify charge drastically different prices based on region. Using a Turkish server to subscribe to Spotify Premium cuts the monthly cost from $9.99 to $2.69 – a 73% discount!
|US Spotify Premium||$9.99/month|
|Turkish Spotify Premium (VPN)||$2.69/month|
Similar savings are available across many subscription services and digital purchases.
Find Better Car Rental Rates
Like airfare, car rental rates can fluctuate widely based on demand. Using a VPN to source rentals from the destination city rather than your home area can yield major savings. One search for an Atlanta rental was 20% cheaper when routed through an Atlanta-based VPN server.
3 Best VPNs for Saving Money Online
Now that you‘re motivated to use a VPN for your online shopping, here are three premium services that get our recommendation:
With ultra-fast speeds and a massive global server network, ExpressVPN consistently earns top marks. Unique touches like their VPN-enabled Aircove router make it easy to encrypt all your devices.
Trusted by millions worldwide, NordVPN offers advanced features like Double VPN encryption and Onion over VPN for maximum privacy. Great value with long-term plan pricing.
For unlimited device connections at a rock-bottom price, Surfshark delivers serious savings. Includes innovative tools like Search without Tracks and HackLock for going incognito.
Avoid free VPNs that can log your activity or sell your data. Paying a small monthly fee is worth it for the privacy protections, speed, and reliability of premium services like these.
Using VPNs Ethically – Where to Draw the Line
Before firing up that VPN to go deal hunting, it‘s important to establish some ethical boundaries:
- Only use VPNs for researching and comparing prices, not actually completing purchases meant for other regions. Doing so likely violates most sites‘ terms.
- Be aware of dynamic currency conversion fees when finishing transactions in other currencies. Do the math to ensure you still save money after exchange rates.
- Never falsify your location or other personal details when creating new accounts. This will result in fraud alerts or banned accounts.
- Check retailers‘ terms first to confirm they allow VPN access. If VPN use is forbidden, avoid to prevent account issues.
- Secure your privacy with a premium VPN that does not log activity or leak data through DNS, WebRTC, or other avenues. Encryption and a kill switch are also must-have features.
The bottom line? Leverage VPNs carefully but confidently to uncover the best deals while still upholding basic principles of fairness and honesty. Now get out there and start saving!