Sometimes free wifi can be a lifesaver.

Imagine you are in an unfamiliar location and you have a smartphone or tablet but no data plan (or you have already used up much or all of your data limit for the month or not have a good signal). You need to get directions or find important information. Where can I find free WiFi? Besides, how can you use it safely?

How to use public WiFi safely

Let’s start with the basics: Public WiFi is pretty insecure. A clever hacker can easily see your data if you use a public WiFi access point. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to make things a lot safer.

First, stick to reputable networks. You are far better off using a WiFi point offered by an institution or a well-known national company than John’s Open WiFi Point.

Have a “junk” email address that you use to log into public WiFi. It never hurts to have a separate “junk mail” e-mail account that you can use, for example, to log into a public Wi-Fi access point. If the wireless host then adds your email address to a mailing list, you will not receive junk email at your main email address. You can easily sign up for a free email account with Gmail and then just use that email address to sign up for WiFi Points.

When you visit a website on a public WiFi point, Make sure you are using HTTPS. Take a look at the website’s url and make sure the first five characters are https. This means that the connection between you and this server is secure and encrypted. Obviously, if you’re just reading a funny website it doesn’t matter, but if you do provide any information about yourself, make sure it’s an https connection.

If possible at all, Do not use critical logins or passwords or credit card numbers over the public WiFi. Don’t log into your bank accounts just because it’s convenient. Avoid shopping online until you get home.

Consider using a secure web browser like Brave. Brave was designed from the ground up to provide maximum security while surfing the Internet while ensuring ease of use. This is especially good if you are using public WiFi. In addition, many web browsers have a “private browsing” mode that offers many of the same features as Brave.

Although this is not a free option, Consider getting a VPN if you use public Wi-Fi frequently. A VPN is a “virtual private network” that you connect to immediately after logging into a public WLAN access point. It provides a secure, encrypted connection to anything you want to do online. In times when I was constantly working in public places, I use Express VPN for this because it is relatively cheap, very secure and very easy to use.

10 popular national chains with free wifi

Here are 10 national chains that offer free WiFi, along with some pointers on how to use it. In most cases, you will be expected to make a purchase in order to use their WiFi. Therefore, here are tips on how to use WiFi in these businesses, as well as inexpensive purchases.

Starbucks

Locations: 32,000 worldwide
Like most coffee shops, Starbucks has pretty fast wifi, but you compete with people who stay there to work. This makes Starbucks a really good choice for off-peak hours, such as the afternoon. The cheapest item on the regular menu is a tall black coffee, which costs around $ 2 depending on the location, although some locations have small groceries for less (such as a cream cheese).

Subway

Locations: 41,000 worldwide
Most Subway locations have free WiFi, but it’s not entirely universal. However, Subway tends to have locations in smaller cities that don’t have other chains (just by the sheer number of locations). On most subways, the little fountain drink is the cheapest item on the menu. Look for a cookie or bag of chips to eat, or if you want a sandwich, the 6 ″ Veggie Delite or Cold Cut Combo are usually the cheapest options.

MC Donalds

Locations: 40,000 worldwide
The wifi at McDonalds is usually very fast when there aren’t a lot of people in the restaurant and is often pretty fast even with crowds. It’s a good choice in a smaller town that doesn’t have a lot of options. At McDonalds, the cheapest item is almost always on the menu for $ 1, $ 2, $ 3, with at least a few $ 1 items so you, the paying customer, can have a drink or munch.

Walmart

Locations: 11,500 worldwide
Most Walmarts have seating right on their doorstep and have strong WiFi signals from there. Your WiFi is reserved for paying customers, but you can usually find very inexpensive items at the cash registers. Many communities also have a target that also offers free WiFi.

Kroger

Locations: 2,900 worldwide
In the United States, different grocery chains dominate different regions, but Kroger has most of the stores in the United States and can be found in many markets. They tend to have seating right on the doorstep. As with Target and Walmart, their WiFi is reserved for customers, although the registers usually have very inexpensive items.

KFC

Locations: 25,000 worldwide
As with most fast food locations with free WiFi, KFC offers good internet speed in times of few customers, but it can get slow when there are many customers in the store. The cheapest items on the menu are the a la carte chicken or a double pack of biscuits, which cost well under $ 2 each.

Taco Bell

Locations: 7,000 worldwide
Taco Bell usually has pretty fast wifi at any time of the day. Taco Bell also has an extensive dollar menu with lots of items for $ 1 so you, the paying customer, can grab a quick bite while using their WiFi.

Dunkin ‘

Locations: 11,000 worldwide
Dunkin ‘has the same problem many coffee shops have when it comes to WiFi – people like to stay there and work. Although their WiFi is quite fast, more people tend to use it longer, so it’s a good afternoon choice. Prices for a single low-cost item are great as there is always a great selection of donuts for $ 0.99.

Burger King

Locations: 18,000 worldwide
Burger King’s WiFi is usually relatively slow, but consistent, as it is usually usable at least at peak times. Consider Burger King as an option if you need WiFi during a lunch break, for example. Burger King’s Value Menu has many options for $ 1, including sandwiches and ice cream.

Wendy’s

Locations: 6,500 worldwide
Wendy’s WiFi is similar to Burger King – very consistent, but on the slow end. A big perk of Wendy’s is a surprisingly varied dollar menu that offers a wide variety of food and drink options for as little as $ 1 while you’re there.

Five community functions that often have free WiFi

Many community facilities offer free WiFi without having to be a paying customer. These are usually a good choice in smaller towns when you can’t (or don’t want to) afford a small purchase, or when you are traveling.

The local library

Locations: 230,000 worldwide
If there’s one vacant location in your city that you can almost count on good free WiFi, it’s the local library. This is the voice of experience – I’ve used countless public libraries as workspaces over the years. Libraries offer a ton of free services that are often overlooked in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

The town hall

Locations: 200,000 worldwide
Almost every city has a town hall and most have free Wi-Fi. Many of them are password protected, but the password is published for easy use. The downside of town hall is that seating is sometimes limited – usually you grab a bench somewhere.

Trains and subways

Locations: 100,000+ worldwide
In most major cities, train and subway stations offer solid WiFi service, and some cities and rail services even offer free WiFi on the trains and subway cars themselves. If you already use these services to get around town or move from town to town, this is a wonderful option.

Visitor centers

Locations: Unknown, but many
Almost every sufficiently large town or town that has tourists has a visitor center, and that center usually has good WiFi service. This is a great place to stop if you are unfamiliar with a city as not only can you take advantage of the WiFi, but you can also get personalized information about the area.

Airports

Locations: 18,000 worldwide
When you fly, airports not only offer great WiFi, but also a wide range of additional free and inexpensive services. It can make sense to arrive well in advance of your flight to use the free WiFi before traveling.

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