A hand putting coins in a savings jar with a shield sticker on it.

When it comes to saving grandpa 25 cents on his coffee because of a senior discount, it’s alright. But when you see a $200 price spike on something you were dying to get your hands on, it’s not as fun. This is usually known as price discrimination.

Price discrimination means charging someone a different amount based on information about their life. This information includes everything from time and location to gender and occupation.

Luckily, there are ways to avoid price discrimination. In this article, I’ll cover five examples of price discrimination and how you can escape it by using a VPN to buy things cheaper online.

    What can you buy cheaper with a VPN?

    While it’s primarily a tool to protect your online privacy, a VPN can be used for saving money as well. Of course, you won’t get a discount just for connecting to a VPN in grocery stores or restaurants, but you can save on several things online: 

    • Flights;
    • Hotel rooms
    • Items with one-time seasonal discounts
    • Cinema or other tickets that are subject to age discounts;
    • Products whose price varies depending on when you visit the website

    In some cases, it’s as easy as turning your VPN on inside your home, connecting to your devices, and finding the right server. In others, you might have to try a little harder. No matter the case, I will gladly explain what you need to do.

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    How to use a VPN to get better prices

    Price discrimination is an easy thing to pull off with the amount of data online platforms collect about us.

    However, it’s not always evident. In fact, you might be paying more without realizing it. That’s why it’s best to go shopping only after you can recognize the 6 most common cases of price discrimination.

    Example #1: Purchasing airline tickets

    Imagine you’re coming back from a holiday and miss a flight. In this situation, your airline has complete control over whether you can get on another flight. And you desperately need to get home. But if you don’t pay their new price for plane tickets, you aren’t going to fly anywhere.

    That’s price discrimination.

    If the carrier is the only one that offers you a flight home, they’ll charge you more for it because they can. Sounds bad? Maybe, but morals aside, it’s standard consumer practice. And it’s just the tip of the iceberg of what carriers do.

    If you look up plane tickets online, they also increase prices for those who show great interest in their flights. The more time you spend on their website – the more they’ll charge you.

    Can using a VPN service help save money?



    To prevent airlines from tracking you, activate your VPN (virtual private network) before accessing their website. Be sure to clear your cookies and don’t have an active account with them. Otherwise, hiding your location will be ineffective.

    If you have confused the airline into thinking this is your first visit, they will assume you’re not interested just yet and offer you better prices. That’s how you can use a VPN to get cheaper flights!

    Bonus: But it’s not just different prices that VPN services can help with. Any time you travel, you leave yourself vulnerable to people that want to take advantage of you. If you take care of travel insurance, it’s only natural you’d want to protect your online privacy too to ensure you are traveling safely.

    Example #2: Booking a hotel

    Hotels are another example of price discrimination in action.

    If you want to book a hotel last minute in a specific location, they will know what you’re after. This can happen with hotel-specific websites as well as third-party websites that gather local hotel rates. 

    As a result of this and the potential scarcity of available services, they will charge you a higher price. Different prices are also given to people depending on when they visit the website and how often they do it.

    Can using a VPN service help save money?



    Using VPN services makes it nearly impossible for a website to track you. Use this to your advantage! If you plan on coming back to check on the price, be sure that you clear your history, cookies, and cache and activate your VPN. This should help you get deals that are cheaper with a VPN. On top of that, a VPN will secure your connection to less secure networks like the Wi-Fi at hotels.

    Example #3: use RatePunk


    RatePunk is a free service that finds the best prices for accommodation. Not only does it crawl various booking platforms to find the best deals, it also checks prices for the same booking from different countries around the world. And if you can save some cash by booking from a different country — RatePunk will let you know about it.

    Can using a VPN service help save money?



    RatePunk may find a cheaper offer for accommodation outside of your home country. If that’s the case, simply connect to a Surfshark server in the country that has the best deal and book your stay as if you were halfway across the world without even having to step out of your slippers.

    Example #4: Using frequent buyer discounts and personal pricing

    Many services online will give you discounts for bulk orders. It’s a common practice for retailers because it encourages you to buy more when shopping online. At the end of the day, you could argue that both sides win.

    But sometimes, personalized pricing works against you. It can take away discounts because it recognizes you’ve already gotten those retail incentives.

    A great example of this is one-time seasonal discounts. You get it once, and if the online shop can track you, then you won’t see it again. However, it’s sometimes possible to use these discounts more than once.

    Can using a VPN service help save money?

    Sometimes yes.


    In some cases, you can trick online services into giving you a discount multiple times by using VPN services. This involves changing your VPN server location to a different country and clearing your browser cache and cookies. When you’ve got that covered, re-enter the website, or create a new account to see if you can get cheaper prices again.

    However, do this at your own risk. This method won’t work 100% of the time, and it might get you removed from their website if they catch you.

    Example #5: Getting age discounts

    The next time you go watch a movie, take a look at those ticket prices. Senior and kid ticket prices are pretty similar. It’s those in the middle that pay the most.

    Age discounts are more common where you need to flash your ID. If you notice a website asking your age right away, you might be able to test if you get a discount for entering a different age and going back in with your VPN. However, you run the risk of violating TOS rules if they catch you.

    The price differences between different ages are meant to feel as an acknowledgment. Regardless, age discounts are still a form of price discrimination that impacts different consumer groups.

    Can using a VPN service help save money?



    In some cases, you can use VPN services to spoof your location, making sure the website cannot track you. If you do this, you can clear your cache, cookies and keep coming back to the website using different VPN servers to get discounts but keep in mind that this method may require you to lie about your age.

    But be careful here, lying could get you removed from these stores, as you might need to submit personal information to take advantage of them.

    Example #6: Encountering time of use changes

    In some cases, different consumer groups vary depending on what time they access the website. In this case, those prices fluctuate based on when you access the website

    This process is known as dynamic pricing. Companies like Target and Amazon are guilty of this practice. The worst part is that these prices stick the next time you come back, so you don’t figure out some shady stuff is going on.

    While age discounts are understandable, making higher prices solely based on time is discriminatory to night shift vs. day shift workers.

    Can using a VPN service help save money?



    Using VPN services allows you to hide your identity from the seller for the best rates.

    Start by clearing your cache and testing out the website at different access times. Find out what time works for you, and order the product at the best available time. 

    Once you find the best pricing times, create an account on that website, so it puts you in that time slot. That way, you can lock in the best-timed pricing. 

    In this article, I’ve talked about how you can save money with a VPN, but there are more cool reason why you should get a VPN. Read our article:

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    Will a free VPN service help?

    If you’re looking to get better deals when shopping online, you might also want to save money on a VPN subscription. However, free VPN services may log your data and sell it to the same online shops you want to keep off your trail. Free VPNs may also leave your data exposed with DNS or other leaks. This would allow these online services to still track you.

    Is buying things with a VPN service legal? 

    Outside of China, Russia, UAE, and some other countries that have banned the use of VPNs, using a VPN is usually completely legal. However, purchasing services or goods with VPNs might be against the terms of service of the company you are buying from. Before you make any purchases, always check the terms of service.

    Disclaimer: Surfshark does not encourage using a VPN in ways that would potentially violate the Terms of Service of other service/goods providers.

    Final thoughts – tips on how to avoid price discrimination

    Airlines, retailers, and pharmaceutical companies all use price discrimination to maximize their profits. When it comes to recognizing this pricing strategy, here are some tips to keep in mind when using a VPN server:

    • Run tests on all hotel, airline, and travel sites with changing dates.
    • Compare prices that you get with your neighbors and friends.
    • Create test accounts on websites to see if their prices vary based on personal data.
    • Check online news reports on price gouging.
    • Always access websites using your VPN so you can avoid tracking.
    • Regularly clear browsing history and cookies.
    • Double-check the terms of service.

    Companies will look to gain some market advantage against you. To ensure you are getting the same opportunity to save money as your friend, always be sure to give as little as you can to websites.

    Surfshark can keep your internet connection secure from these companies that would use it against you. Don’t pay higher prices when you don’t need to.

    Remember, you can check our special VPN deals to save up on the VPN as well.