ProtonVPN has many advantages you are probably already aware of. Because a VPN hides your true location from advertisers, governments, and hackers, it is a powerful way to take control of your online privacy. In addition, because a VPN encrypts all the data you send and receive online, it protects you against data leaks and guards against third parties trying to access your personal information.
But there are other advantages of using a VPN that are often overlooked, including the fact that a VPN can save you money. Many websites use something called “dynamic pricing,” which automatically adjusts prices depending on your browsing history and location. In other words, these companies charge you more for the same products and services depending on where you are accessing their website from or how many times you view a product.
To accomplish this, they rely on trackers in your browser and other personal information, including your location. Dynamic pricing is not only an invasion of your privacy, it may end up costing you money. In this article we explain how dynamic pricing works, how to avoid it, and how to save money using ProtonVPN.
How dynamic pricing works
Dynamic pricing is a way for retailers to optimize their prices depending on who is visiting their site. These systems can be implemented with different levels of complexity. At their simplest, they adjust the currency that is displayed based on your IP address. The most complex systems monitor your browsing history using cookies on your web browser. They also try to glean information from your device’s fingerprint. Almost anything, from the country from which you are accessing the Internet to the device you are using, could lead a website to automatically increase its prices.
Most people come into contact with dynamic pricing when they look for flights. If you’ve ever checked back on a cheap flight, only to find that its price had suddenly increased, that’s dynamic pricing. Flight prices may increase in response to demand or, according to our testing and that of others, based on your location.
Websites may also use what country or ZIP code you are accessing the Internet from as a proxy for your income. The United States and Sweden have a higher cost of living and GDP per capita than places like Poland or India, so American and Swedish Internet users often will see higher prices than Polish and Indian users on the same site. Other times it’s the inverse, with Americans getting better rates on hotels and car rentals as part of “vouchers” to encourage tourism.
This is unfair to some shoppers, but it is also big business. According to research by Hosting Canada, most people spend approximately $488 annually shopping via online marketplaces. At global scale, if a company can increase prices by just $10 per customer on average, they can dramatically increase their profits.
How VPNs block dynamic pricing
A VPN can help you avoid dynamic pricing — and therefore save you money — in two primary ways.
First, when you use a VPN, all of your Internet traffic is sent through a third server. The website you are visiting sees the location of this server and not your true location. Geographical targeting of this kind is a common way in which dynamic pricing is used, and so hiding your real location can potentially save you money.
Additionally, by concealing your true IP address, VPNs defeat dynamic pricing by limiting companies’ ability to track you around the web. Many websites use tracking cookies or rely on those provided by tech giants like Facebook and Google. This data is then used to create a profile on you. Retailers may then use this profile to adjust their prices according to what they think you can afford.
Before you start shopping, make sure you delete all the cookies that are on your machine already. This can be done via the settings menu of your browser. You should also use incognito mode or a private window to navigate to your online shop. Finally, fire up your VPN, and choose a server. It’s probably best to start with one in your home country for comparison purposes.
There are other ways to track you in addition to your IP address. Learn how to block online trackers.
Where to save money using a VPN
Let’s look at some real-life examples.
Here is a return flight from London Heathrow to Chicago’s O’Hare International, booked without a VPN. (For some reason, we found that the booking site Kayak appears to be most sensitive to the location of your IP address in the pricing it shows for the same bookings.):
And here is exactly the same flight, booked through a ProtonVPN Plus server in Poland:
Here is a hotel in Paris for the evening of Jan. 17, booked while connected to ProtonVPN Plus server in the US:
And here is the same hotel booked for the same evening using a ProtonVPN server in France:
While these prices may look similar, with the exchange rate (at the time of writing), the price using the French server is actually about $580.
Here is a similar experiment, this time looking at a hotel in Rome for the evening of Jan. 17 while connected to a ProtonVPN Plus server in the US:
The exact same hotel using a ProtonVPN Plus server in Italy:
With the exchange rate, this works out to roughly $395.
And the same hotel using a ProtonVPN Plus server in the UK:
With the exchange rate, this is roughly $389.
Why use ProtonVPN Plus to save money
If you want to save money by using a VPN, you are going to need a good one. Many free VPN services are not trustworthy and can leak your data. Others will log your activity and sell it to third parties, compromising your privacy. ProtonVPN has a strict no logs policy, and we’re known for our technical expertise in cryptography and online security. Our free plans also let you choose from servers in Japan, the Netherlands, and the US, which is more than many free VPNs can offer.
If you are looking for even more options to avoid dynamic pricing, you can consider signing up for one of ProtonVPN’s paid plans. With one of our paid plans, you have access to hundreds of servers around the world, affording you more opportunities to shop around for the best prices.
After hiding your cookies and connecting anonymously, you will often see prices decrease at online stores, even in the country where you live. That’s because they don’t know who you are anymore and aren’t able to adjust their prices.
If you are buying flights or products from overseas, you can go further. You can check what the price of the product or service you want to buy would be if you ordered it from somewhere else. If you are buying flights in Asia, for instance, you can often save by choosing a VPN server in a local country.
The bottom line
We built ProtonVPN to provide a service that’s secure, private, and trustworthy. Getting great deals is just one more good reason to use ProtonVPN when you’re online. Not only do we keep your online activity secure and private, but we can also help you find the best prices on hotels, plane tickets, and potentially anything else you purchase online.
The ProtonVPN Team
This article was written by Ludovic Rembert, a security analyst, researcher, and founder of PrivacyCanada.net. He spent his career (before semi-retirement) as a network security engineer working in both industry and academia, and more recently has begun freelance writing on a variety of technical topics.
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