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The hidden costs of using free VPNs

It is possible to get a fully free or ‘free’ trial VPN in Australia, but should you?

Nathan Lawrence
Mar 20, 2023
Icon Time To Read4 min read

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Whether you’re seeking to boost online privacy, access geoblocked content from overseas or boost your security on an unknown public WiFi connection, having a virtual private network (VPN) in your back pocket is fast becoming essential in this Internet Age.

But as is the trend with online software these days, big-name VPNs tend to be built on subscription models that either charge ongoing monthly fees or attempt to tempt you out of a steeper initial upfront fee for a longer duration, albeit with better overall value. When it comes to finding a free VPN to use in Australia, there’s always a compromise.

Stock photograph of a woman shocked by the activity occuring on her smartphone

Actual free VPNs you can use in Australia

Before we get started, let’s throw a little shade. While researching this article, it was easy to find a lot of websites claiming to offer a list of the best ‘free’ VPNs in Australia. But in reality, those lists tend to include premium VPNs that ask you to pay an initial fee that you can then reclaim via money-back guarantees. That’s not so much a free VPN as it is a paid trial that requires you to cancel it to get your money back. And you have to remember to do that before the money-back period expires or you’re stuck having paid the full fee.

Of the VPNs we’ve reviewed, there are truly free non-trial versions from the following services:

And there are other detractors for all of those options, too. ProtonVPN is limited to three countries and one device. Hotspot Shield is ad-supported. TunnelBear only has 2GB per month (though you can tweet for an extra 1GB). Atlas VPN is limited to three global locations, Windscribe is restricted to 10 and PrivadoVPN—one of the best—only has 12.

Except for TunnelBear, none of these free VPN services have Australian servers, which means dealing with higher latencies and slower download/upload speeds on top of potentially throttled free servers.

Check out the table below for a breakdown of the best free VPNs available in Australia:

Best for
VPN
Monthly premium price
View plans
Included data
Server locations
Devices
Speeds
Best free VPN overall
Privado VPNPrivadoVPN
US
$10.99
10GB per 30 days12UnlimitedUncapped
Best free VPN trial
VPN Unlimited - Hero CardVPN Unlimited
US
$9.99
Unlimited695Uncapped
Best free VPN for data
Hotspot ShieldHotspot Shield VPN
AU
$19.99
500MB per day112Mbps
Best free VPN for speed
atlasvpnAtlas VPN
AU
$17.94
5GB per month3UnlimitedUncapped
Best free VPN for streaming
WindscribeWindscribe VPN
US
$9
10GB per month10UnlimitedUncapped
Best free VPN for Australia
Tunnel BearTunnelBear
US
$9.99
3GB per month49UnlimitedUncapped

Other free VPNs for Australia

One of the most popular free VPN services is Hola VPN, but we don’t recommend using that because the free version makes users exchange system resources for access. Even as a premium service, it’s not a VPN we’d recommend because of a shaky privacy policy. There are better alternatives from NordVPN, ExpressVPN and Surfshark VPN.

Speedify also offers a free version, but only if you click through to the end of the installer prompts enticing you to pay. It’s capped at 2GB of data per month. Like TunnelBear, Speedify’s free version has a great range of location options (more than 30 countries), plus it even has servers built for peer-to-peer.

The other alternative for a viable free VPN service to use in Australia is Hide.me, which offers 10GB per month with five location options (Canada, Germany, Netherlands, as well as West Coast and East Coast USA). You can only connect via one device, though. And while there is support for peer-to-peer services while connected and no speed throttling for the free version, it doesn’t play nice with sidestepping geoblocks on international streaming services. That said, we don’t recommend using Hide.me as it’s a proxy instead of a VPN, which means it doesn’t encrypt your web activity.

Free VPNs that work with Netflix and other streaming services

The reality is that most free VPN services should work with Netflix in that you should still be able to play content on Netflix. That said, if you’re after a free VPN that removes geoblocks and allows you to play international content on Netflix and other international streaming services, that’s a little trickier.

Hotspot Shield Free doesn’t let you stream content from Netflix, blocking the site and letting you know that’s a feature only available via the premium service. TunnelBear worked with Stan but not Kayo, BBC iPlayer or any of the US streaming sites we test.

That leaves the free version of Windscribe as the best pick for streaming the Netflix US library and other international services, care of a more practical 10GB monthly data cap. Windscribe also happens to be our top pick for the best VPNs for streaming. You also want to factor in where servers are located. Speedify and TunnelBear (53 and 49) have the most choices, followed by PrivadoVPN and Windscribe (12 and 10), while Atlas VPN only has three.

Best VPN trials for premium services

The catch with all of these money-back guarantees masquerading as trials is you have to input payment details first and then select your subscription period. If you select a month and forget to cancel ahead of time, you might be up for $10 to $20; if you’ve selected six months, one year or longer, you could be stung with hundreds of dollars. Additionally, some VPN services don’t offer money-back guarantees for monthly subscriptions.

Of the premium VPN services we’ve tested, Hotspot Shield and CyberGhost VPN are the best in terms of money-back guarantees, both offering up to 45 days to request a refund. PureVPN offers a 31-day money-back guarantee, but it’s more common to see a 30-day money-back guarantee. Here’s a list of the VPNs we’ve reviewed with 30-day money-back guarantees (ranked in order of how they scored):

And here’s a list of how the other VPN services look in terms of shorter money-back guarantees:

  • Norton Secure VPN (14 days)
  • Windscribe (three-day money-back guarantee)
  • TunnelBear (no money-back guarantee)

If you want to save money, we advise using one of the free services listed above this section. Otherwise, if you’re ready to try a premium VPN service, use a money-back guarantee as a trial to get a taste of all the features. Just remember to set a calendar reminder to cancel if you don’t intend on using the VPN beyond the trial.

The table below offers a breakdown of the best VPNs in terms of their money-back-guarantee durations (30 days or more):

VPN
Monthly Price
View plans
Money-back guarantee
Free version
Locations
Connections
Our score
Private Internet Access LogoPrivate Internet Access
AU
$19.79
30 daysNone146Unlimited3.75
Hotspot ShieldHotspot Shield
AU
$19.99
45 days500MB per day11254.25
CyberghostCyberGhost
AU
$18.79
45 daysNone11774
Nord VPNNordVPN
US
$12.99
30 daysNone8364.75
ExpressVPNExpressVPN
US
$12.95
30 daysNone15154.5
SurfsharkSurfshark
US
$10.99
30 days7 days (iOS, Android)142Unlimited4.25
PureVPNPureVPN
US
$12.45
31 daysNone95104.25
ProtonVPNProtonVPN
US
$9.99
30 daysNo data limit90104
VPN Unlimited - Hero CardVPN Unlimited
US
$9.99
30 daysNone6953.75
atlasvpnAtlas VPN
AU
$17.94
30 days5GB per month46Unlimited3.5
Mullvad VPNMullvad
$5
30 daysNone7053.5
Privado VPNPrivadoVPN
US
$10.99
30 days10GB per 30 days59103
Hola VPN LogoHola VPN
US
$7.49
30 daysUses system resources0102.25
Ip VanishIPVanish
US
$7.99
30 daysNone83Unlimited2

Free VPN FAQs

There are several 100% free VPNs, but they are all limited in one way or another, usually by data caps, locations and/or speed. Check out PrivadoVPN, VPN Unlimited, Hotspot Shield, Atlas VPN and Windscribe for viable free VPNs.
We think PrivadoVPN is the best free VPN because it offers uncapped speeds, unlimited simultaneous connections, 12 international locations to choose from and 10GB of data every 30 days.
There are several free VPN services that are actually free. The catch is typically that they have data and speed limits, plus a limited option of VPN servers.
Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence
Nathan Lawrence has been banging out passionate tech and gaming words for more than 11 years. These days, you can find his work on outlets like IGN, STACK, Fandom, Red Bull and AusGamers. Nathan adores PC gaming and the proof of his first-person-shooter prowess is at the top of a Battlefield V scoreboard.

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