When researching the best VPNs on the market, privacy and security are most people’s top concerns. A virtual private network helps restore these by encrypting data that leaves the device, preventing third parties, ISPs, and government agencies from stealing, tracking, or recording online activity. With a VPN in place you can browse the internet without worrying about someone watching your every move.
Simply installing a VPN isn’t the most you can do to protect your online privacy, however. When you pay for a VPN you’ll likely use a credit card, which is directly associated with your name and home address. This means activity that passes through the VPN can theoretically lead back to you, no matter how heavily it’s encrypted. This is worrisome for many VPN users, but there are steps you can take to keep the transaction private, including buying VPN service using cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.
Why Bitcoin Payments with a VPN?
When privacy is extremely important, paying with bitcoins is the way to go. Most other online payment methods leave an easy to recognize trail anyone can follow. If you make a purchase with a credit card or PayPal, for example, your name and address are readily associated with that transaction. This can be a major drawback to buying VPN service, as part of the reason you’re signing up is to boost your online privacy.
VPNs keep their users relatively anonymous by providing high levels of encryption for all their data. Information you send that passes through a VPN’s servers is scrambled, and the VPN shouldn’t keep logs of those transactions. If you’re trying to remain as anonymous as possible, however, a third party could theoretically track your activity by matching VPN IP addresses with VPN providers, then sifting through payment databases to discover the record of your purchase, name and address attached.
Bitcoin payments keeps the entire transaction more secure. Instead of signing off with your PayPal or bank account, bitcoins let you send money without leaving a trail. Your bitcoin wallet doesn’t contain your name, just details about how to verify the payment and extract funds. You’ll get your VPN service and your details won’t be associated with the account. When privacy is a must, paying with bitcoin is essential.
Evaluating the Best VPNs for Bitcoin
More and more online vendors are accepting bitcoin as payment. Even physical retail stores have begun to embrace the modern cryptocurrency movement. Companies that run virtual private networks know their customers are interested in strong online security, which is why many of them let you buy service and renew subscriptions using bitcoins. The prices are the same, the process is the same, only instead of handing over your name and address through a credit card transaction, you get to utilize the blockchain for a safe and anonymous transaction.
Since privacy is the top concern with VPNs that accept bitcoins, we focused our research on the best providers with the strongest privacy policies. You don’t need to get into the details about precise encryption protocols or server network distributions. Just use the criteria below when searching for the best bitcoin VPN and you’ll be well on your way to preserving your online privacy.
Logging policy – A VPN’s logging policy is the backbone of your privacy. Data that passes through VPN servers can be stored just like with an ISP. If a government agency requests access to these logs, your personal data could be compromised. If the VPN doesn’t keep logs, however, your data can’t be shared. It’s a simple but effective way to secure information, as the VPN can’t share something that doesn’t exist. Always make sure your chosen VPN has a strict zero-logging policy, no exceptions.
Jurisdiction – An often overlooked feature of VPN service is where the company is registered. Some countries can require VPN provider to keep logs of certain information, things like time stamps or detailed traffic reports. This overrides the VPN’s policy on keeping logs, and it makes it both possible and completely legal for third parties to obtain copies of these logs. It’s always best to choose a VPN based in a country with privacy-friendly laws.
Traffic restrictions – Some VPNs impose limits on how much and which types of traffic its users can consume. Bandwidth caps are surprisingly common, for example, as are filters that block peer-to-peer networks and torrent traffic. To make sure you have unrestricted access to the internet, check your VPN’s policy on allowed file types before signing up.
Speed – VPNs tend to be slower than standard internet connections, all thanks to encryption and worldwide server locations. To help offset this inevitable drop in speed, good VPNs will configure their hardware and software for the best performance.
ExpressVPN is known for high speeds and excellent privacy policies, including strong encryption and zero traffic logs. The company runs a network of over 145 servers in 94 different countries, most of which deliver a reliable connection to cities around the world. ExpressVPN offers custom apps for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS, and the desktop versions of the software includes kill switch and DNS leak protection features, which helps ensure your identity never leaves your device.
ExpressVPN’s plans are competitively priced and offer discounts for longer subscriptions. Bitcoin payments are processed through BitPay, making it as easy to use cryptocurrency as it is a credit card or PayPal. All of ExpressVPN plans are backed by a 30 day money back guarantee.
ExpressVPN’s best features:
- Unlimited bandwidth and no restrictions on P2P or torrent traffic.
- Zero traffic logs, 256-bit SSL encryption, and ultra fast servers.
- Speed test option built into multiple versions of its software.
IPVanish is a friendly VPN service that aims to make the internet more accessible to the world. It does this by offering straightforward apps and easy to understand privacy policies, all backed by a network of over 850 servers in 60 different countries. If you want to access video streams from other countries, IPVanish can help. If you need to avoid censorship filters or visit blocked websites, IPVanish can help there, too. You’ll also never have to worry about bandwidth limitations or blocked file types, either, as IPVanish doesn’t monitor traffic in any way, shape, or form.
IPVanish accepts bitcoin payments for all of its competitively priced plans. Sign up for one month, three months, or even a full year, saving up to 46% with longer subscriptions. Note that at the time of writing you can’t set automatic renewal payments with bitcoin, so each time your service is about to end, you’ll need to manually renew.
IPVanish has a great set of features, including:
- Custom software on Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and more.
- Secured with 256-bit AES encryption and zero traffic logs.
- Anonymous torrenting and unlimited P2P usage.
- Connect up to five devices simultaneously.
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PureVPN has some distinct privacy advantages over many popular VPNs in the market. Their entire network of 750 servers in 141 different countries is self-managed, meaning outside parties never have access to their hardware or software. This adds some security to the company’s already strong zero-logging policy, 256-bit encryption, ISP packet inspection workarounds to help preserve privacy.
PureVPN supports payments with over a dozen popular cryptocurrencies, including bitcoin and litecoin. You’ll also find some of the best deals on long term VPN subscriptions, such as the excellent 73% off a two year sign-up. You can even buy plans using a variety of retail gift cards, which is another way to get a VPN without divulging your identity.
PureVPN has a number of other useful features:
- Access the VPN through browser extensions, which include adblockers and tracking blockers.
- Compatible with many TV box devices, gaming consoles, smart TVs, and over 50 routers.
- Surf, stream, and use VoIP services with incredible speed and security.
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NordVPN is a well-rounded VPN provider with fantastic privacy policies. Double encryption is the service’s signature feature. Important data that passes through select servers gets wrapped in 2048-bit SSL encryption, locking it so tightly that not even a supercomputer can break it. On top of this, NordVPN has one of the most thorough zero-logging policies around, covering everything from traffic to bandwidth, IP addresses, and even time stamps. Nothing you do is stored on NordVPN’s servers, ever.
NordVPN’s plans include all of the above features and more. You can pay with bitcoins as processed through BitPay, and your transaction is even covered by the company’s 30 day money back guarantee. Sign up for a full year of service and you’ll save an additional 52% off the base price!
Some of NordVPN’s best features include:
- Great device support for all major operating systems, smartphones, and tablets.
- A massive network with over 1,000 servers in 59 different countries.
- Unlimited bandwidth and no restrictions on P2P or torrent traffic.
- Jurisdiction in the privacy-friendly country of Panama.
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The Basics of Bitcoin
Bitcoins are unlike any currency most people are familiar with. There are no bitcoin banks, no physical pieces of currency, and no centralized authority that creates or maintains the bitcoin ecosphere. Instead, everything is verified through a distributed network of bitcoin users and miners deploying complicated cryptography. Think of it like crowdsourcing a currency, though in reality it’s far more intricate than that.
Despite the unusual structure bitcoin transactions follow a simple path. First, a payment takes place. You send bitcoins to a VPN provider to pay for a service, for example. This transaction is then broadcast to the bitcoin network. Miners, many of whom are ordinary people with ordinary computers, process this transaction to create a block. The mining computer solves a crypto puzzle and submits proof of work to the public network, linking the created block to another block to form the blockchain. Next, other miners verify the block’s integrity, and the process continues throughout the network and for each transaction. The intricate system of checks and balances keeps the integrity intact, making bitcoin a reliable and self-sustaining system anyone in the world can use.
The field of cryptocurrencies can be incredibly dense with technical jargon. You don’t need to be a security expert to make basic sense of the bitcoin world, but it’s helpful to know some of the basics so you don’t have to switch to a dictionary every few minutes.
- Cryptocurrency – Any decentralized digital currency, including bitcoin, litecoin, dogecoin, etc.
- Blockchain – The distributed public ledger that helps verify transactions. This is bitcoin’s version of a team of accountants or a bank, and it’s what makes the system so unique and reliable.
- Exchange rate – Bitcoins have no set value. Instead, you exchange them like you would foreign currency. At any moment bitcoins are worth different amounts in your local hard currency.
- Bitcoin exchange – Not to be confused with the exchange rate, bitcoin exchange sites are companies that exist to turn your hard currency into cryptocurrency, or to switch between cryptocurrencies themselves.
- Mining – The process of verifying bitcoin transactions. Miners maintain the blockchain and receive very small bitcoin rewards in exchange for their work.
- Wallet – Stores information necessary to make bitcoin transactions. Think of it like a personal bank that only you have access to. Wallets don’t actually store bitcoins, but without a wallet you can’t make transactions.
Notes about Paying with Bitcoins
Buying, selling, trading, and spending bitcoins is easy. You don’t need to be an expert on the underlying technology to successfully use cryptocurrency, but the more you know the better. A common mistake is to think of bitcoins just like any other currency. This can be true in some respects, though there are some things you should know about bitcoins before you start spending them.
Wallets can be tough to secure – In order to use bitcoins you need a bitcoin wallet. These aren’t necessarily physical structures. They can be pieces of paper, text files, images, or anything that can store a string of letters and numbers. You have a lot of control over what your bitcoins do, but it’s easy to misplace or even lose bitcoin wallets, which is the same as throwing money in the trash.
Bitcoin transactions are irreversible – There’s no way to undo or cancel a bitcoin transaction. Once you spend it, it’s gone. Transactions can be refunded if the receiving is willing to do so, but it’s not exactly the same as reversing a charge.
Bitcoin isn’t entirely anonymous – While using bitcoins is incredibly secure, the process doesn’t guarantee your anonymity. The method you use to buy bitcoins can leave a trail, as can your IP address or other online activity.
Bitcoin prices constantly change – The value of a unit of bitcoin is always fluctuating. At the time of writing a single bitcoin is worth about 2,500 USD. This means a single USD is worth 0.0004 BTC. That value will be different each day, going up or down based on a number of external factors. This can make spending bitcoins more like trading stocks.
Other Benefits of Using a VPN
Getting a VPN brings a lot of extra benefits you may not expect. Privacy is at the top of the list, of course, and it extends well beyond the simple “stop mass surveillance” tagline you see around the web. You’ll also get a measure of anonymity, extra online security, and even added safety when you travel. And if you buy your VPN using bitcoins, many of those anonymity bonuses are even stronger!
Below are some of the added benefits using a VPN can provide.
Watch videos from other regions – Have you ever tried to watch a movie on Netflix, Hulu, or YouTube and seen the message “Not available in your region”? Content distributors restrict which shows and movies are available in which countries. With a VPN you can instantly change your virtual location through the VPN’s software. If you need to access BBC iPlayer, for example, but you don’t live in the UK, simply open the VPN, swap servers, reload, and start streaming.
Stop surveillance and tracking – IP addresses act like a mailing address for digital information. Each request you make through the internet is sent and delivered via the same IP. Since your location and ISP account information are tied to your IP address, they can be used to associate data with your identity, undermining any hopes of privacy online. Government agencies and even service providers themselves use this fact to follow users’ internet activity on a regular basis. Thanks to VPNs and their dual abilities of encryption and non-local IPs, you can surf the internet without leaving an easy to follow trail behind.
Stay safe while traveling – When you travel you’re more vulnerable than ever. Accessing public Wi-Fi places you at risk from hackers and shady ISPs alike, and then there’s the ever present issue of losing your data to fake hotspots. By using a VPN on your Android or iOS device, you can encrypt everything for an extra layer of privacy. And don’t forget to encrypt your Android or iPhone for localized protection, too.
Access censored websites – Government and corporate censorship has become a more common problem in the modern world. It’s easy for a company to block certain websites or a country to forbid access to domains or types of content. Most of these filters work by simply comparing IP addresses and not allowing a certain range through. Since VPNs both encrypt data and assign it a new, non-local IP address, many of these censorship issues can be neatly sidestepped without much effort.
Buy with bitcoins and VPNs for extra anonymity – VPNs by themselves aren’t perfect solutions for online anonymity. Neither are bitcoin transactions. Combine the two, however, and you’ve suddenly got an amazingly private way to conducting business online.
Using a Free VPN Doesn’t Help Your Online Privacy
If paying for a VPN exposes your personal data, why not use a free VPN? It’s tempting to install one of the countless no-cost VPNs available on the market. All of them promise fast speeds and hundreds of servers to choose from. All you have to do is click and start browsing, sounds easy, right? Unfortunately, free VPNs can pose a real threat to your online privacy, all because of money.
No-cost VPNs have to bring in some form of income to keep their servers online. Since their users aren’t providing that income, they have to source it elsewhere. This usually comes in the form of selling the data they promised to keep safe. In other words, your private browsing data. Free VPNs usually have slow speeds, bandwidth limitations, and blocked protocols like P2P and torrents. And if they’re keeping logs of user activity and selling that to third parties, your privacy isn’t improving, it’s going straight down the drain.
Investing in a good paid VPN service isn’t expensive, and it’s extremely easy to pay with bitcoin for an added layer of anonymity. This small effort can help ensure your privacy stays intact online.