Online shopping has revolutionized the shopping industry for buyers and sellers alike. You, as a buyer, can easily order pretty much anything from the comfort of your home, without even having to make a single phone call.
Meanwhile, companies can use their websites to list their assets, suggest things you may want to buy, and target you with specific purchases and items you might be interested in, and more.
However, you can make your purchases even better by engaging in online shopping with a VPN. At the same time, you can avoid things like price steering or price discrimination.
What is price discrimination?
When two people from different areas go to the same online shop and look up the same item, they might not always see the same price. Online stores often change their prices for people in different geographical regions. Of course, there are many other aspects that they use, such as your device, location, browsing history, your operating system, the number of times you have checked out the same or similar product, and more.
Stores collect all of this data and then use algorithms to assess your financial situation. For example, if you use iOS on your iPhone and live in a rich(er) neighborhood, you might get a much higher price for the same product than someone else.
Many companies use this method to squeeze as much money out of their buyers as they can. Some have even admitted to doing so, such as Office Depot1. Some researchers even decided to do studies about it and found that this is done by pretty much all major stores, including Amazon, Steam, Staples, and many others.
And, if you were wondering how much these price changes can vary, a study2
by Spanish researchers found that the mentioned stores’ prices can vary up to 166%, based on your location alone.
This goes well beyond simple goods, like many services, such as:
- Game stores
- Car rentals
- Subscription services (Netflix, Hulu)
- and many others
Tend to do the same. They all base their approach on the WTP — Willingness To Pay. In other words, if you would pay for it, why shouldn’t they charge you more?
How to save money while shopping online?
Obviously, it is in your interest to buy and book things as cheaply as possible. That will save you money to purchase more things, or simply save up a bit for future purchases. There are, of course, several methods that you can use to do this.
Hotels tend to change their prices depending on the day of the week. Therefore, one trick to saving money is to try and figure out when their rates will be at their lowest. One study3
uncovered that the lowest hotel rates could be found on Friday or Sunday, while Tuesdays are the most expensive, statistically. One more thing you can do is to contact your hotel directly4, instead of booking it over agencies, as you can get the best deals, with many additional benefits included, such as free breakfast, discounts for different activities, and alike.
Another study found that Sunday is the best day for buying tickets, on average, while Fridays are the most expensive days for doing so.
But, if you want to really save money, and do so in nearly every shop or on every service of the ones we mentioned, you should use a VPN.
How to save money while shopping online with VPN?
As you know, VPN apps combine numerous security and privacy features, among which are encryption, security protocols, kill switches, and alike. However, the one you need the most for cheaper shopping is the server network.
Server networks offer servers all around the world. In the most popular regions — such as the US — they even cover different parts of the country. That way, regardless of the neighborhood you actually reside in, you can connect elsewhere and see how the deal changes within the stores. You can get the best deals without effort, simply by having this app enabled on your phone or PC.
Sometimes, you might find that the price you are seeing is already low, as different locations might cause it to grow. However, more often than not, you are far more likely to see the opposite.
In order to check out different regions, you need a VPN rich with servers and IP addresses, such as NordVPN, which has over 5,500 different servers at its disposal. It also has servers in nearly 60 countries, which means that you can try accessing the store’s website from numerous different locations.
As you do so, you will likely see how the price changes as you change location, even though your account and all the details tied to it remain the same.
This is because your geo-location is the most observed aspect when you wish to purchase something, and with a VPN, you can change it by replacing your own IP address with that assigned to the server.
Other ways in which a VPN can assist you
We briefly mentioned that VPN offers numerous security features, such as security protocols and encryption. These features allow you to completely hide your online traffic while browsing the web. NordVPN, for example, has some of the best security features in the industry.
It uses OpenVPN and other security protocols to create a tunnel for your data to flow through, and remain unobserved by anyone conducting surveillance. It also uses 256-bit AES encryption to make your traffic completely unreadable to others. Since this encryption was never broken, you can rest easy, knowing that your data will be safe, even if someone does manage to obtain it somehow.
But why is this important?
The reason why you would even want extra security is that you cannot purchase things without money. That means connecting your card to these services and revealing sensitive details that they use to withdraw money from your account whenever you buy something. The problem is that revealing your sensitive data can be dangerous or at best, problematic. Here is why.
A quick recap of why should you use a VPN for online shopping:
- Protect your credit card information from hackers
- Protects from online and ad-tracking
- Get access to restricted content from anywhere
- Bypass censorship from work, school or anywhere you travel
You might get robbed by hackers
If hackers were to obtain your sensitive credit card information, they could easily find a way to steal your money. Not to mention things like login credentials, which you need to enter whenever you access the shops on the internet. If you use the same credentials everywhere (which you really shouldn’t), hackers can hijack numerous accounts and steal your data, money, or get you in some other kind of trouble. In other words, you can literally save money with VPN when it comes to threats like these.
You are being tracked by stores and online services
VPNs can protect you from cookies, trackers, and other ways that stores mark you and track you, in order to gain valuable info about you, such as location, browsing data, and your other interests. We have already discussed how important that is to them.
Fortunately, with a VPN, all of your data is hidden and protected, and it is not even stored on your internet provider’s servers. Instead, it gets recorded on VPN-owned servers, and then deleted as soon as your VPN session ends. That way, no one can obtain it, and you can browse the web without leaving a digital footprint.
With little to no data about you, the stores won’t know where you are, what you care about, and things like that. As a result, they won’t be able to modify their prices in order to have you pay more.
Private network owners can censor your internet
Lastly, a VPN can also help you out when it comes to accessing censored and geo-restricted content. This is very useful if you live in an area where some things are blocked off, and you cannot access them. For example, let’s say that your university, which owns and manages its own network, blocked the gaming website that you wish to buy games from.
With a VPN, you can connect to a different server, bypass the block, and easily buy the game you wish to play. You can even use a VPN to play games online, which is likely also blocked by your university. Of course, universities do this to help you focus on your studies, but everyone needs a break from time to time, and why not relax with your favorite game when you get the chance? Best of all, you are likely to find your game for a much lower price if you connect from a different location, as we discussed, so there are really no downsides to this approach.
If you tend to buy things online or book flights, hotel rooms, rental cars, and more — you are very likely to find much better prices if you use a VPN to change your online location. Due to price discrimination, many companies will try to determine your location in order to assess how much money you may have. Then, they will modify their products’ and services’ prices in order to charge you accordingly.
This is unfair to the customer, but if you use a VPN such as NordVPN it can also work to your advantage. Simply connect to a different area, and see how the prices change with your location. This way, you can save money with a VPN, as you will never again have to pay a full price just because the firm selling the product thinks that you should pay more, based on where you live.
- LifeHacker – How Web Sites Vary Prices Based on Your Information
- Forbes – Different Customers, Different Prices, Thanks To Big Data
- Clark – The Best Day and Time to Book a Hotel Room
- Tripsavvy – How to Go Old School and Get Better Hotel Rates