Do You REALLY Need a VPN for Public WiFi? [NOT SPONSORED]

If you’ve seen ads for VPN providers, and if you’ve consumed any content in the past decade or so you’ve certain seen plenty of these ads, then you might feel this looming anxiety that’s been drilling into your mind, telling you that you’re completely unsafe using the internet without a VPN.

Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored post and it does not contain affiliate links. If you decide to sign up for a VPN after reading this article, we do not get paid anything. If you decide not to buy a VPN after reading this article, it’s just the same to us.

This article does still contain our standard banner ads that can be based on your browsing activity or the content of the page. You might see ads for a dishwasher, ads for a class action attorney, or it might even show you ads for a VPN. However, unlike most articles about VPNs, we aren’t incentivized to convince you to buy a VPN, or to use a specific brand.

Fair enough? Good stuff. So, with that out of the way, here’s what you need to know about using a VPN for public WiFi…

I’ll take a leap, and assume you’re here because somebody made a huge deal about telling you how important it is that you have a VPN if you’re ever using public wifi.

It’s not terrible advice, really. It can be important to have a VPN in certain specific cases, but the majority of people are fine without it (at least in the context of public wifi, as long as you take some important precautions).

Speaking of taking precautions, I’ve also written an article about how to stay safe on public wifi, so you can check that out for additional info.

VPNs and Public Wifi 101: The Basics

  • Public wifi = A network that is accessible to the public.
  • May or may not be password-protected.
  • May or may not be secure in terms of being properly monitored and maintained by the company hosting it.
  • Can be spoofed, or use other methods to trick you into joining the wrong network and sending all of your internet data to a malicious actor.
  • A VPN acts like a protective barrier around your internet traffic, so that it’s unreadable if it gets intercepted.

Public wifi can be risky, that’s not an understatement. Still, the necessity of having a VPN for public wifi starts to feel a bit overstated at times.

Does that mean you shouldn’t use a VPN in public? Nope!

Does that mean there are no benefits? Nope!

What it does mean, however, is…

Having a VPN Isn’t As Important As It Once Was

Wherever you land in terms of how badly you may or may not need a VPS when using public WiFi, this isn’t as important as it used to be.

A VPN helps to encrypt your internet traffic, which was a lot more important several years ago, well before the vast majority of websites started using https instead of http (the extra s stands for secure. Yep, really, so you know it’s secure) as they do today.

Having said that, there are still instances where you may be sending or receiving data that isn’t encrypted, or you might accidentally connect to the wrong wifi network, leaving you vulnerable to hacks.

You Might NOT Need a VPN for Public Wifi If…

  • All you’re doing is using a web browser on your phone and you ensure that you only visit secure websites.
  • You’re positive that you’re only using other apps that are encrypted. Think of all the things that run in the background on your phone or laptop such as email clients, social networking apps, and a lot more.
  • You avoid connecting to public wifi altogether, and you use your phone’s data connection instead (however, you may very well want a VPN for that, too – since it’s possible it’s not fully encrypted all the time, much like using public wifi without a VPN).
  • You don’t keep emails with important information, or personal photos, or anything else on your mobile devices that you would be devastated to have intercepted. Remember, if someone gains access to your email, they can get access to just about everything else in your digital-life, so be careful!

It’s not always easy to keep track of everything, and at a certain point it’s easier to just throw up a VPN for a couple bucks a month and be done with it.

With all of that being said, the numerous benefits of using a VPN all apply when you’re on a public wifi connection – it’s just that sometimes, the people promoting VPN services might exaggerate and overstate the risks sometimes, so there can be some backlash to seeing over-the-top VPN advertisements.

But overall, having a VPN can be very useful in helping to protect your privacy and data, whether you’re at home or in public somewhere using wifi, cellphone data, or whatever other type of internet connection you stumble across.

Public Wifi Is Riskier, So a VPN Can Help

Since public wifi is generally riskier than your own secure network at home, then it’s a pretty good idea to use a VPN on public wifi, especially if you already have a VPN membership at one of the main VPN companies (to ensure you’ll have access to a wide range of useful features, the ability to use it on multiple devices, etc).

So, When It’s All Said And Done.. Do You NEED It?

You’ll hate this answer, but it really depends.

If you’re doing stuff like banking on your phone when you’re out in public, or you have valuable assets stored on your phone or computer, maybe a crypto wallet, access to your payment cards, maybe some important passwords are stored there too, and really any other data on your device… then it’s almost certainly going to be worth it to take the extra steps to get a VPN to better protect your device, access to your internet connection, and more.

But, once again, that doesn’t mean you should be losing sleep if you hop on public wifi every now and then, and you take the necessary cautions. I guess, when it’s all said and done, a VPN is good for those times when you might forget to take all of the necessary precautions, because a VPN gives you that extra layer of security.

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About the Author

Ken Jayes is a lifelong tech enthusiast. He's the guy who family and friends call when their tech isn't working. With his role as the main contributor to, Ken is now your tech guy, too.