The Best Places To Get Free Wi-Fi

Get free internet no matter where you find yourself

Easton Smith
Aug 14, 2023
Icon Time To Read4 min read

The best things in life are free, and that includes an internet connection. No matter where you end up, you should be able to get free and fast internet service by tapping into Wi-Fi networks in public parks, libraries, restaurants, and other popular locations.

Here are some tips on the best places with free Wi-Fi, including a list of all the best chain stores that have free internet for the public. (In many of them, you don’t even need to buy anything to log on.)

Before we get to those, though, consider getting a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot. If you’re sick of relying on public Wi-Fi hotspots, then it might be time to invest in a mobile hotspot device. These handy gadgets will give you high-speed internet pretty much anywhere. They are usually faster and more consistent than using your phone as a hotspot.

reviews.org next zip logo
Not happy with free public internet? Find high-speed internet providers near you with just a zip check.

Where to get free Wi-Fi

Whether you’re living as a full-time digital nomad or you’ve just run out of mobile data, there are plenty of places to pick up free Wi-Fi signal. Here’s a list of the most common areas to check in every city and town.

Where to get free public Wi-Fi:

  • Public libraries
  • Public parks
  • University campuses
  • Hospitals
  • Airport terminals
  • Schools
  • Government buildings
  • Coffee shops
  • Restaurants
  • Rest stops

Some Wi-Fi networks in places like university campuses, hospitals, and libraries might ask for a login ID or other credentials. You may be able to create a free account or find a work-around by asking an employee or another patron for a password.

Even if you can’t find free Wi-Fi in a public area, you can almost always find a nearby restaurant or chain store that has it. Here’s a quick look at the best stores to check out, no matter where in the U.S. you’ve landed.

Best chain stores and restaurants with free Wi-Fi

It’s common for chain stores to have free Wi-Fi for their customers. In most cases, you don’t even need to purchase anything to log on. It's especially common in cities that are remote-work friendly. Next time you're stuck without the internet, just look for the nearest strip mall.

Here are the specific stores to look for when searching for free Wi-Fi locations.

Starbucks

Starbucks might seem like an obvious choice since it was one of the original places to get free Wi-Fi. But did you know that Starbucks continues to be ahead of the curve by offering, on average, much faster internet than most competitors?

Dunkin’

If you can’t find a Starbucks, don’t fret. There’s always Dunkin’. This chain may not have as many cozy places to sit, but its internet is generally free, fast, and reliable.

Walmart

We won’t lie, sitting under those fluorescent lights in a big box store isn’t the most luxurious set up for surfing the web, but it sure is convenient. Every Walmart in the U.S. has free public Wi-Fi that doesn’t require a password to use.

Wendy’s

Most Wendy’s have free Wi-Fi for customers. However, this shouldn’t be your first stop if you have a choice, since Wendy’s internet is known to be slower than others.

Denny’s

Denny’s is a reliable restaurant for free Wi-Fi. Many of the chain’s locations are located conveniently near highway offramps. Go ahead and refuel with bottomless coffee while you catch up on emails.

Barnes and Noble

Barnes and Noble goes to great lengths to offer a quiet, comfy, and convenient ambience for customers who want to kick back and read … or use the internet. Most locations have free Wi-Fi and a nice café seating area where you can get work done.

Panera Bread

Panera Bread made a big splash when they offered free Wi-Fi internet to customers all the way back in 2004. But the company is keeping up by continuing to offer (much faster) internet at every single location.

McDonald’s

McDonald’s public Wi-Fi isn’t quite as good as its fries, but it is free, reliable, and relatively fast.

Subway

Subway has more locations than any other chain restaurant in the world. You can find one in almost every backwoods town and sleepy desert rest stop. While not all Subway locations have free Wi-Fi, many of them do.

Chick-Fil-A

Not all Chick-Fil-A’s have free public Wi-Fi, and those that do may not have the best network. But it’s worth a try in a pinch.

And more

Honestly, the list could go on much longer. Most fast food restaurants, like KFC and Arby’s, offer free Wi-Fi in many locations, but the quality varies.

However, there are some notable exceptions, like Chipotle, which never offers Wi-Fi at any location.

How to connect to free Wi-Fi networks

Connecting to a free Wi-Fi network in a public area is easy. If you follow these general steps, you can get connected in a minute or less.

  1. Go to the Wi-Fi settings on your device. If you’re within the range of the Wi-Fi network, it should appear in the list of available networks. Click on the network.
  2. If the network is open, your device should automatically connect. If your device asks you for a password or some other authentication, you may need to ask an employee of the store, restaurant, or institution for credentials.
  3. Once you’re connected, you may need to agree to terms and conditions. When you connect to the network, you may have to open a web browser and click a button to agree to the location’s terms and conditions before you use the internet.
  4. Some locations may have time limits. If you hit a time limit on the free Wi-Fi network, try opening a different browser, resetting your cookies, clearing your internet cache, or disconnecting and reconnecting to the Wi-Fi network to get more time.

How to stay safe on public Wi-Fi

If you’re using a Wi-Fi network at one of the locations that we listed above, then it’s probably a relatively safe and secure internet connection. However, there are some basic precautions that you should always take when using a public Wi-Fi network.

  • Invest in a virtual private network, or a VPN. With a VPN, you can keep people from tracking your internet traffic and get around certain content firewalls. VPNs often come with other security features, too, like malware protection.
  • Avoid entering important numbers or biographical information when using a public network, like bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, or important passwords.
  • Keep your device up-to-date! Hackers and trackers are always innovating to find better ways to trick you and break into networks. But so are the programmers that make apps and operating systems. Always update your device and all of your apps to stay protected.

Get cheap internet at home

Getting free internet when you’re out and about is awesome. But when you’ve come back home at the end of the day and you just want to binge your new favorite Netflix show, it’s best to have a more consistent hook up.

High-speed home internet plans aren’t always cheap. But there are some affordable options out there if you know where to look. Here are our top five favorite cheap internet deals right now.

Top 5 cheap internet plans and prices
Provider and plan
Price
Download speeds
Details
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet$60/mo.*72-245 Mbps
AT&T Internet 300$55/mo.300 Mbps
Spectrum Internet® $49.99/mo. for 12 mos.Up to 300 Mbps
300 Mbps Internet$30/mo.^Up to 300 Mbps
Connect$19.99/mo for 12 mo w/1 yr contract.°Up to 150 Mbps
* w/ Auto Pay. Regulatory fees included in monthly price for qualified accounts. See full terms.
Price after $5/mo Autopay & Paperless bill discount (w/in 2 bills). Plus taxes & fees. Monthly State Cost Recovery Charge in TX, OH, NV applies. One time install chrage may apply. Ltd. avail/areas. Call or go to www.fiber.att.com to see if you qualify. Speeds based on wired connection. Actual speeds may vary. For more info, go to www.att.com/speed101.
For 12 months when bundled. Limited time offer; subject to change; valid to qualified residential customers who have not subscribed to any services within the previous 30 days and who have no outstanding obligation to Charter.
^ For 1 yr. w/Auto Pay & Paperless Bill plus taxes w/Unlimited Mobile plan. ($40/mo. without Unlimited Mobile plan.) Terms apply. Wired connection. WiFi speeds may vary. Not available in all areas.
° For 12 months with 1-year term contract. Taxes and equipment not included. Includes $10/mo automatic payments and paperless billing discount. Prices may vary by location.

We also have a guide to getting free internet at home with information about government and other assistance programs.

Easton Smith
Written by
Easton Smith
Easton has worked as a freelance writer and researcher for several years, reviewing health, lifestyle, and technology products. He has probably read more Terms of Use contracts than any human alive. When he’s not sitting in front of a computer, Easton spends his time camping, climbing, and volunteering with humanitarian aid organizations.

Related Articles

woman sitting on a rocky mountain using a cell phone
Best International Cell Phone Plans
Whether you’re going abroad or need to communicate with loved ones overseas, these are the...
A man with dark hair and a beard pays bills on his laptop while lying on a couch
Best Internet Deals in May 2024
Save money with the best home internet deals this month, including Xfinity deals, AT&T deals,...
woman wearing glasses sitting on couch using her laptop to stream
An Honest Optimum Internet Review: Is It Worth Your Money?
Optimum isn't available everywhere, but if you can get it, we recommend it. Read our...
A close-up of fiber-optic filaments, an Ethernet cable, and a keyboard
How Does Fiber-Optic Internet Work?
You hear about fiber internet speeds all the time, but what does that even mean?...