The aim of many VPN users throughout much of the world is to tunnel into the United States by providing a US IP address. The US is, after all, the source of the world’s most popular entertainment, and much of it is only accessible online to those living there.
But US citizens also need VPNs, whether it be to unblock content or improve privacy. The needs of an American VPN user is probably a bit different than someone in a foreign country. Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN encrypts all of a device’s internet traffic and routes it through an intermediary server in a location that the user chooses.
Americans are directly in the line of sight of intelligence agencies like the FBI and NSA. American corporations like Google and Apple monitor and gather information on users in the United States. As Edward Snowden revealed to the world, corporate and government espionage are often one and the same.
While those government agencies and private companies are global and spy on everyone, Americans fall under the direct jurisdiction of their authority, whereas users in other countries at least have a legal border between them. Copyright trolls are particularly aggressive toward torrenters in the USA.
Americans using VPN services, then, require greater security and less access to foreign content. Below we’ve chosen the best VPNs for the US that achieve this equilibrium based on the following criteria:
- The provider is not based in the United States
- No traffic logs are stored on the provider’s servers
- Strong encryption, 128-bit AES or greater, is used by default
- Shared IP addresses are used to preserve anonymity
- Bonus points for anonymous payment methods, such as Bitcoin
Here is our list of the best VPNs for the USA:
ExpressVPN uses AES 256-bit encryption with the OpenVPN protocol by default. No traffic logs are kept that show the content of user activity, but some metadata is recorded. The company is incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, beyond the jurisdiction of the US government (and UK government, in case you were wondering). All servers use shared IPs, so you share an IP address with hundreds of other users. The company accepts payment in Bitcoin in addition to credit card and PayPal.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, Linux (command line), and certain routers.
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Read our full ExpressVPN Review.
NordVPN is a Panama-based VPN provider with a reputation for security. That includes double-hop servers that route your traffic through two VPNs and a Tor over VPN option that sends traffic through the Tor network upon exiting the VPN server. Most IPs are shared but some dedicated IP servers are also available if needed. The OpenVPN protocol uses 256-bit encryption standard. NordVPN accepts Bitcoin payments, and it’s one of the best values any VPN provider offers. The company keeps absolutely no logs of users’ traffic or connection metadata. You may have up to six simultaneous connections on a single subscription.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS.
Read our full NordVPN review
CyberGhost is based in Romania and offers a varying selection of privacy and security features to choose from. The company keeps no logs of user activity or metadata. OpenVPN connections are secured with 256-bit AES encryption and perfect forward secrecy. DNS leak protection and a kill switch ensure no traffic escapes the VPN tunnel. Additional features include an ad blocker, anti-malware defense, and anti-tracking. CyberGhost allows you to choose a server not just based on location, but on how you plan to use it, be it for streaming, torrenting, public wi-fi, or anonymous web surfing.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
Read our full CyberGhost review.
Based in Sweden, PrivateVPN is a relatively young provider compared to the others on this list. Despite that, it’s growing quickly thanks to features and performance on par with the bigger names. The company adheres to a strict no-logs policy. 256-bit AES encryption and perfect forward secrecy protect all traffic on the OpenVPN protocol. A kill switch halts all internet traffic if the VPN connection drops. Built-in DNS leak protection prevents web page requests from being sent outside the encrypted tunnel. PrivateVPN is one of the faster VPN services we’ve tested and unblocks just about everything we’ve thrown at it. P2P filesharing is tolerated on all servers. Six simultaneous connections are allowed on a single plan.
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Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
Read our full PrivateVPN review.
Israel-based SaferVPN offers the privacy and security you need in an app and service that couldn’t be easier to use. A subscription nets you access to hundreds of servers in more than 30 countries. That’s not a huge selection when compared to some competitors, but rest assured that our speed tests score SaferVPN far above average across the board. The company doesn’t record the contents of traffic or log IP addresses. Servers optimized for streaming can unblock a slew of streaming video sites in the US and UK. All connections are guarded by 256-bit AES encryption.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
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Read our full SaferVPN review.
Hungary-based Buffered doesn’t keep traffic logs, but it does record the user’s IP address, time connected, and connection duration. DNS leak protection works well, but there’s no kill switch. 256-bit encrypted OpenVPN connections are standard. The desktop app is novice-friendly, but mobile users will have to opt for a third-party app until the company eventually releases Android and iOS versions. All server IP addresses are shared. Unfortunately, Buffered does not accept Bitcoin.
Apps are available for Windows and MacOS.
Read our full Buffered review.
Hide.me is a Malaysia-based VPN provider that keeps zero logs of users’ activity and metadata. It’s one of the fastest VPNs we’ve tested to date. Users can choose from a variety of available protocols, although we recommend OpenVPN or IKEv2 for optimum security. Each VPN connection on those protocols nets you 256-bit AES encryption and perfect forward secrecy, more than enough to keep your security airtight. It’s not the most adept unblocker when it comes to geo-locked sites like Netflix, but for most Americans this won’t really matter. Certain servers are labeled for P2P filesharing activity.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.
Read our full Hide.me review.
If you can live with the ugly interface and poor usability, AirVPN has no equal when it comes to security. Only the OpenVPN protocol is supported. For added privacy, OpenVPN encapsulated in SSH and SSL are on offer. DNS leak protection, DNS routing, a kill switch, and port forwarding can all be tweaked in the settings. Zero logs are recorded. The company is based in Italy. The app is targeted at more advanced users, but it shouldn’t be too difficult for a novice to get a grasp of. AirVPN accepts bitcoin.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, and Linux.
Stay tuned for our full review of AirVPN.
Good VPNs that are based in the US
Due to privacy concerns, we filtered out several VPN providers from this list because they are based in the United States. That doesn’t make them bad VPNs by any means, but the fact that the NSA or FBI could come knocking on their doors doesn’t inspire confidence, even if they advertise a no-logging policy.
If US intelligence agencies aren’t a concern for you, there are several other US-based VPNs worth considering:
Other than being based in the US, these VPNs meet all of our other criteria. If you trust them not to store any usage logs, then they shouldn’t have any information to give to law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the first place.
VPNs that Americans should avoid
Hola is a peer-to-peer VPN-ish browser extension that allows other members to utilize your unused bandwidth. It does not operate its own servers. This is a privacy problem, especially because Hola isn’t very transparent about it. The company allegedly took advantage of all its users’ network power to create a botnet and attack websites in the past. Because internet service providers often impose data caps in the US, and because of blatant privacy issues, we recommend avoiding Hola.
HideMyAss is based in the UK. Because the US is good buddies with the UK, it’s not a good option for those hoping to avoid national intelligence agencies. HideMyAss infamously gave up user logs to British authorities that led to the arrest of a LulzSec hacker. HMA says it never logs the contents of its users’ internet traffic, but it does store detailed metadata logs that include users’ real IP addresses, which was enough for law enforcement to eventually jail LulzSec hacker Cody Kretsinger following his involvement in a cyber attack on Sony Pictures.
Several free VPN services will try to entice you after a quick app store or Google search, but be wary of them. First off, they are typically slow, cap your data, and limit bandwidth to save resources. Secondly, they have poor logging policies and security. Finally, many free VPNs make money by injecting advertisements into users’ browsers, which actually decreases your privacy.
Even though Americans typically have the best pick of content, they are faced with one persistent form of geo-blocking: blackouts.
Blackouts restrictions usually apply to live streaming video, especially sports. Even if you have a subscription to a legal online streaming service, such as MLB.tv for baseball, local teams are often unwatchable online. That’s because the broadcast rights to local games are often bought up by regional TV stations, and online streaming services are barred from competing.
VPNs circumvent this problem. By simply connecting to another location in the United States where the particular event is not blacked out, the stream can be unblocked. Just make sure you’re using one of our recommended best VPNs for USA to ensure you have enough data and bandwidth to get decent quality video without constant buffering.
VPNs for torrenting in the US
Downloading and distributing copyrighted material is illegal in the United States. Internet service providers often implement a three-strike rule in which customers are penalized for illegally downloading content via BitTorrent.
While BitTorrent itself is not illegal, it’s often associated with illegal activity, primarily online piracy. Non-copyrighted material is completely legal to download.
Copyright holders often act through copyright trolls, which record IP addresses of torrenters and send settlement letters requesting remuneration. Copyright trolls are granted the right to sue on behalf of the copyright holder. However, because an IP address does not legally constitute an identity in the US, it’s usually advisable for recipients is to ignore settlement letters if they don’t contain any identifying information.
A VPN’s encryption hides BitTorrent traffic from the user’s ISP. And by masking the user’s real IP address with that of the VPN server, copyright trolls cannot trace torrent downloads back to a specific device.