Global economies are becoming meshed together like never before as the Internet fosters international competition and unified global markets. In the past, prices for goods and services varied widely among different countries. Today, prices in international markets have less variability due to global competition.
But due to international import tax laws and currency exchange rates, it's still possible to find a good deal by purchasing something from another country – if you're able to access the foreign marketplace, that is. Plus, many ecommerce sites implement irksome practices such as price steering, whereby a website will detect which country in which a user is residing, and then choose to price products and services differently by location.
In some cases, it's possible to use a VPN tunnel to mask your IP address and global location. This allows you to purchase goods at a foreign price. Digital products are the most convenient opportunities for savings with a VPN tunnel because they only require a download and lack shipping costs. That said, there are physical goods that can be purchased cheaper as well.
1. Steam Games
Every serious gamer I know (in addition to many casual gamers) have heard of Steam. And anyone who has used Steam knows how irritating the geographic restrictions can be. Like Microsoft and Sony, Steam restricts content in certain regions for financial and licensing purposes. A VPN tunnel will unblock this restricted content, allowing a gamer to download otherwise inaccessible video games.
However, I must issue a word of caution: proceed at your own risk. Steam is aware that some of its users employ proxy connections and VPN servers to circumvent restrictions. There is no guarantee that Steam won't ban your account if it detects a proxy server connection. That said, many feel that it's more than worth the risk of a banned account, especially if Steam or a specific game isn't available in your region.
Not only can you access content that's unavailable in certain regions, but it is also sold at different prices in different international markets. For more information, feel free to check out the five best VPNs for Steam.
Streaming content is one of the most filtered and geographically restricted types of content on the web, which is a real shame given that on-demand streaming content has become the norm. In the old days, we had to rent physical tapes or discs, but now we can access television and film content with the click of a mouse. As long as we live in the right region, that is.
When Netflix was still in its infancy, it was really only available in the United States. In the recent past, however, Netflix has opened its gates to an international market, and is available in the majority of countries around the world with few exceptions, like China. But note that any single region where Netflix is available doesn't have access to the same content as every other region.
For example, some content that's available in one country isn't available in another country. Some regions don't have any access to Netflix at all. Not surprisingly, Netflix has different pricing models for different regions. Some countries are charged more than others. For example, Netflix costs $10.99 USD in the US, but it costs $17.99 in AUD. This is still a significant price savings when you factor in the exchange rate! Save yourself $7 a month now by using a VPN for USA!
A VPN tunnel will help circumvent these restrictions, but like Steam, Netflix doesn't like users unblocking their content. Some VPN service provider's IP addresses are blocked, but Netflix can't feasibly block every VPN IP address since they change so frequently (new servers come online, different blocks of IP addresses are leased, etc.). To help find which VPN tunnel is best suited for streaming Netflix content, check out our Netflix VPN guide.
Amazon Prime isn't available in nearly as many locations as Netflix, and prices vary significantly dependent on your region, if it's available at all. Amazon isn't too keen on people spoofing IP addresses, like any other digital service, but it doesn't seem to be nearly as stringent as Netflix. But do note that it's a little trickier to unblock content and purchase a subscription than with other services.
If you already have an account, you'll need to change your account's country setting in addition to spoofing your IP address with a VPN tunnel. Furthermore, dependent upon which region you're trying to access, you may need a payment method tied to the region.
Nevertheless, whether using a web browser, app or Amazon Fire Stick, it's possible to purchase a subscription at a cheaper foreign rate. For more information, check out the five best VPNs for Amazon.
Spotify is another service that was previously locked down to only a couple regions, much like Netflix. However, Spotify has opened its service to international markets as well, but the price in each market varies significantly. Plus, Spotify uses a payment processor called BlockPay, which enables users to pay with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin without having to pay any extra processing fees. It's even possible to pay with PayPal.
You may need to delete cookies depending on your browser and system configuration to ensure that no browser fingerprinting or cookie tracking methods direct you to a landing page accepting your domestic payment denomination. However, do note that the prices vary depending on region. For example, the premium version costs $9.99 USD in the United States, but it costs 9.99€ in European regions like Germany. Due to exchange rates, you can save about 15% per month by paying in USD. Check out our five best VPNs for Spotify.
5. Adobe CC
Adobe CC is one of many software products that can be purchased cheaper with a VPN tunnel. I have found that some software websites aren't restrictive based on your IP address; instead, they merely direct you to the default page for the region you're in. On some websites, it's possible to access the landing page for a different region simply by editing the URL from one region to another (for instance, changing the 'de' in the URL, which refers to German, for 'us.'
Adobe CC, however, is not a site that's so easily fooled. For example, users who try to access the US page while abroad will get the following message: “Are you visiting Adobe.com from outside the US? Visit your regional site for more relevant pricing, promotions and events.” The good news is anyone with a VPN tunnel can access international prices.
6. Access to Products Listed on eBay
Why buy something brand spanking new when a used version will work just fine? Ecommerce has become the norm over the last 10 years, but many online marketplaces are geographically restricted, limiting access unless you belong to specific geographic regions or countries. Plus, those of you who are privacy minded or simply live in a country where electronic purchases are tracked will be pleased to know that eBay accepts Bitcoin payments.
It's possible to gain access to foreign ecommerce market places like eBay to buy used products and even new products that are sold at a discount for a variety of reasons. However, do note that you shouldn't expect to pay any less for an item simply because of the VPN server you use. An auction's price set by the seller will still cost the same regardless of your IP address.
7. Airline Tickets, Hotels and Rental Cars
You've probably seen a ton of websites claiming it's possible to sniff out great deals on plane tickets and hotels when using a VPN tunnel to connect to a different region. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem there are any real ways to 'game' the airlines or travel industry anymore. Years ago, there seem to have been genuine cases where people could save tons of money on airline tickets simply by using a VPN. But these days, cheaper flights and hotels with the use of a VPN tunnel appears to be little more than an alluring pipe dream.
We concluded that although there are some special offers posted on different versions of a website, these cheaper flight promotions and savings aren't tied to a user's IP address and location. However, car rentals seem to be another matter. The car rental industry seems to be more discriminatory based on location, as evidenced by ExpressVPN's price comparison. The savings aren't jaw-droppingly huge, but they are significant enough to hunt for.
In the old days of landline phones and the Plain Old Telephone Service, long distance charges were obscene. Some calls could cost over a dollar a minute (depending on how far away your were calling), but VoIP was heralded as the end to long distance charges. While it is true that you can use VoIP for free to circumvent long distance charges, note that the only free calls are video messages and audio calls to another person using the Skype app.
If, for instance, you wanted to call a user's mobile phone number or landline telephone (does anyone still actually have a landline?), you need to purchase a Skype telephone number and credits. The amount of credits any give call consumes is dependent on VoIP routing factors, tolls and charges in any of the networks and regions the call data is routed through.
However, using a VPN tunnel can help circumvent some of these restrictions by hiding your voice traffic until it is decrypted by your VPN server. In some cases, depending on international rates, where you're located and where your contact is located, you can get cheaper call rates.
Some countries are subject to distastefully high import taxes that make buying imported products impractical. Take Brazil, which is among the top 20 nations in terms of highest trade tariffs. These taxes are imposed at the point of sale, as opposed to when goods physically cross the border.
It makes a lot of sense for people in Brazil and other similar countries to simply purchase a product personally in a foreign country and have it shipped to their home to avoid massive taxes. Sounds pretty easy, right? Well, there is one problem. Geo-restrictions block connections to ecommerce sites and retailers like Target. Fortunately, it's easy to purchase a VPN service to circumvent the geographic restrictions and shop around for better deals.
Amazon is an international corporate behemoth that offers its services in 11 major countries around the world, and is soon expanding to Australia. Also, though its full range of services and online marketplaces aren't available in other countries, AmazonGlobal does allow sellers to sell and ship products internationally in over 100 countries around the globe. If you've ever shopped on Amazon before, you know how easy it is to find great deals.
Not only is it possible to find brand new products, which are sometimes discounted, it's also possible to find great deals on used products. But there is one tiny problem. Like other international ecommerce sites, Amazon attempts to geographically restrict access to its marketplaces based on location, which is determined by public IP address. And some Amazon products, depending on the seller, are inherently bound by international trade rules that cause differences in international pricing. Fortunately, using a VPN tunnel will help you gain access to Amazon.
Recently, there have been a lot of juicy rumors, educated guesses and speculative theories that Amazon is preparing to start accepting Bitcoins. There hasn't been an official announcement from Amazon yet, but with the way the value of Bitcoin has been soaring recently, the ever growing popularity of cryptocurrencies is becoming more and more mainstream.
Please be aware that the prices of products fluctuate rapidly, and could change on an annual or even monthly basis. But by and large, using a VPN to access cheaper prices is worth the few minutes it takes to lookup the price of a product or service you wish to purchase.
Lastly, if you're using a VPN to access digital goods in which a record of your purchase is tied to an online account, as is the case with Steam and other game networks like Xbox Live, make sure you take the time to read the User Agreement and Acceptable Use Policy before making a purchase. There is some amount of risk of getting banned, but if a title isn't available in your region to begin with, there aren't really other viable options at your disposal.