Hello Habr! Now that is summer vacation season. Many of you will take a flight to a place far from your everyday routine at home. Before this hot vacation season starts, we should discuss an interesting and useful method on how to save money using a VPN.
One of the easiest ways to see the value in this is looking at car rentals while on vacation.
Example — let's reserve a car in Brisbane, Australia, using a Spanish IP:
Then let’s change to an American IP and see what will happen:
For Americans the daily car rental price for Fiat Punto is $3.47 higher than for Spaniards. Now let's imagine you go to Australia for 2 weeks. In this case you will save $48.58. Not bad, right?
Car rental services offer different prices based on your location. If you try to rent a car from, let's say, USA, Ireland and Bangkok, prices will vary greatly.
Let's go deeper with other examples.
Purchasing of an air ticket
Example: Let's try to buy a ticket from Moscow — let's say you spent your vacation there — to Los-Angeles with an Indian IP.
And now let's change our Indian IP to an IP of USA. Travel direction is the same.
Yes, the airline company has changed, but earlier we didn't see this offer at all! The cheapest offer is now even cheaper at $48 lower, and the «Best value» price raised $61 higher.
Many airline companies and aggregators customize their services based on users' data — ticket prices greatly vary depending on the user's device type — mobile, PC, tablet, device vendor, for example, Apple, current location — country, city, region, queries volume etc. This is common practice for most companies, and some users are familiar with this matter, some unfortunately are not. These marketers’ tactics are not new but are still evolving users like us are starting to catch on.
Australians, for example, opened a Reddit thread where they discuss how to buy books cheaper while you are in Australia. It is appears you can save about $40 with an American IP if you buy only a few books. Not bad, huh?
But not only is your IP important when making online purchases. For example, if you use an expensive MacBook model, your price will likely be higher. If you are from elite district of your city, you may be adding extra cash to the final price. If you check the price of the same item from a MacBook vs. an Android phone you will see that prices will vary. The same usually happens with repeating searches. If you will make identical search requests on the same rental service or book store, prices for item you are interested in will become higher and higher.
Companies use our fears against us — if a potential customer is repeatedly updating a products page or query the price will continue to rise, however he or she will eventually buy the item anyway. Usually the customer thinks the price is rising based on objective factors. For example the company has only limited quantity of tickets or books etc. In the end the customer buys the item at a high price.
VPN is the possibility to beat companies with their own weapon.
Algorithm is pretty simple:
- Clean up the cookies or open your browser in incognito mode;
- Turn on the VPN and change IP.
Varying search results on hotel booking services
The same story happens with hotels. Tourists from different countries will have different prices shown to them. Search results will also greatly vary. Our algorithm is the same we used with air tickets.
Booking example: Prague, 20th-21st of June, 2 adults, Indian IP
Then let's change our IP to USA. First hotel book price is now 5 euro lower. Also we see additional comments «In high demand» and «Booked 4 times for your dates in the last 24 hours».
Then let's change our IP one more time, this time it will be Ireland. We see cheap hotels in our search result. Hostel booking prices are 3 euros lower. The exchange rate may affect results but not create a 10% difference.
Let's save some money on Apple services
iTunes price formation matrix is pretty complicated, it depends on so many factors, including user location. In “expensive” countries, prices for apps and music are usually higher. Therefore, before buying an album in your own Apple Music or iTunes, you should compare its value with other regions.
Let's take a look at how to buy something in American iTunes.
Algorithm is a bit more complicated than before:
- First you need to log out of your Apple ID.
- Verify that you have a US IP address.
- Find the free app in the iTunes AppStore and download it. Most importantly, remember that you need to download the application, and not music or video. iTunes will request your Apple ID — simply create a new one.
- Accept the agreement and complete the sign-in process.
- Then search a paid app or song you’d like. When the payment screen appears, do not enter credit card details. Instead use the mail service option and find any address in Delaware to avoid sales tax.
- For payment, use an iTunes gift card. You can purchase it through eBay or Amazon. Or you can buy a virtual US credit card. There are many sites selling them online.
Saving money on Amazon
Amazon price formation algorithm is also very complicated. As with other sites the same item has can have different prices depending on the buyer's location. But you can easily change your location.
Let’s look at an example of buying a book on Amazon. The website cheapriver.com allows us to compare prices of the same items in different countries.
First find a book you could be interested in. Then let’s check its prices in different locations.
After finding the best price you can make a local Amazon account with local IP through your VPN and voila — you bought a book with lowest price.
Software purchase savings
Disclaimer: following information is not a guide to action. My attempt at what it means “the following is based on search results at the time of writing, always perform your own research before making purchases, especially if at work where your neck could be on the line!”
When you check prices for Adobe or Microsoft software you see prices for your location, web-sites of these companies use your IP to find out your location. But prices for the same software product could vary greatly depending on user’s location. Like previous examples you can find out prices for different countries using a VPN.
Example: let's buy Adobe Photoshop from the USA.
Then let's change our IP to Ireland.
$100 is 88.68€ at the moment of this article creation. So users from Ireland will pay for the same offer 26€ more per month. For 1 year the saving would be 312€. For this amount of money you can spend quite some time in Prague based on hotel and hostel prices shown previously
Changing your search location provides different prices in a number of segments: including games, books, clothes, air tickets, hotel bookings and much more. Often this is due to the tactics of marketing or sometimes simply because of the peculiarities of local legislation or taxation. It is also important to remember that some services need to be paid with a credit or gift card from the countries whose IP was used for the purchase.
If you are excited to try VPN and see how it all works as simply as described here, you can try one of the available VPN-services right now. It is best to choose a VPN with a wide spectrum of locations and a free trial period.
Have you ever been faced with situations where the price on the same item on the same web-site varied greatly depending on your browser, location or device?