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Best VPN for the USA: The best options for streaming and surfing in America

Want to stay safe online, or just stream your favourite TV from abroad? Then theses are the best VPNs to use in the USA

A good Virtual Private Network (VPN) can solve a great deal of problems: increased security, extra privacy and even access to services beyond your own borders. When you connect to the internet via a VPN to the provider’s server, you hide your activity from prying eyes and protect yourself from snoopers. You can also appear to be in another region or country, letting you unlock content that would otherwise be unavailable.

How to pick the best VPN for the USA

Comparatively speaking, internet users in the United States enjoy a high degree of freedom over the websites they can visit and the services they can access, but that doesn’t mean US residents might not want to consider getting a VPN. In recent years, the threat of surveillance and privacy have increased – not just from federal and local authorities, but from corporates wanting to track internet behaviour, not to mention ISPs which can now sell specific user data to third parties. 

You’ll find general advice on choosing a VPN in How to buy the best VPN. In the USA, your key concerns are likely to be privacy, security and protection from snooping, so we’ve focused on VPN providers that deliver a high level of protection and have a strong presence in North America to ensure good performance. We’ve also picked providers that either don’t keep logs, or that have clear, transparent policies to cover what they log, why they log it, and who they can share that information with. Some providers offer additional protective features beyond the basic VPN, while we also mention those who take payment via a less traceable currency like Bitcoin.

While the US has the best Netflix catalogue around, you might still want a VPN for accessing the likes of BBC iPlayer – or for getting the likes of Netflix, Hulu and HBO Now while out of the country. By disguising your true location, a VPN can make it look like you’re streaming from America, and get around these services’ region locking. 

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The best VPNs for the USA

1. Buffered VPN: The easiest VPN for the US

Price: $12.99 (£9.92) per month, $6.60 (£5.00) per month with annual contract

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Buffered VPN makes connecting easy. Just launch the app, scroll through the list of 44 countries, then double-click. It offers three locations in the US, giving you east-coast, west-coast and mid-west options for faster speeds, and it currently works with Netflix and other streaming services if you’re trying to stream from outside the US. There’s a significant 62% hit on connection speeds while you’re doing so, but that still left over 12Mbps on our fibre connection for streaming video. With a local server, you’re looking at a 24% reduction, which is pretty good.

Buffered is located in Hungary – outside of the fourteen eyes network though inside the EU – and the company keeps no logs. All your traffic is protected in transit by 256-bit Blowfish encryption. However, it’s missing some of the security and privacy features of rival providers, particularly a killswitch. It’s quick to connect, simple to use and versatile, though not quite as feature packed as some rivals.

2. Nord VPN: The best all-round VPN for the US

Price: $11.95 (£9.13) per month, $5.75 (£4.39) per month with annual contract.

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If you’re looking for the best overall balance of privacy features, security, performance and price, Nord VPN is hard to beat. Its global reach is impressive, with over 1400 servers in 61 countries, including 562 in the U.S. It delivers decent performance, with speeds dropping by 30 to 35% with nearby servers. However, with a 64% drop in speed when using US servers from the UK, it’s not the fastest option if you’re travelling abroad.

Nord VPN is based in Panama, which isn’t part of the fourteen eyes network and has no mandatory data retention laws. Nord VPN also claims a strict no logging policy. Beyond this, it offers optional double encryption and dual-hop VPN for added privacy, strong DNS leak protection and a killswitch feature. For added obfuscation, you can also route traffic via the TOR network using an Onion over VPN server. Nord VPN might not a cheap VPN, but you get exactly what you pay for. 

3. TunnelBear: The best US VPN for privacy protection

Price: $9.99 (£7.63) per month, $4.99 (£3.81) per month with annual contract

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TunnelBear combines low prices, strong privacy and security features and a surprisingly lovable UI, making it one of the most attractive VPN packages around. As a bonus, you can use it for free if you keep the traffic below 500GB per month, which may be fine if you only want occasional use of a VPN. Tunnelbear has over 900 servers in over 20 countries, and as it’s based in Ontario, Canada, it has North America well-covered. It’s also one of the fastest services we tested for connecting to the US from abroad, with just a 62% reduction in connection speeds against the average of 68%.

TunnelBear doesn’t log activities and has one of the clearest privacy and information policies around. While Canada is part of the five eyes network, TunnelBear specifies how it will deal with any requests from government or law enforcement, putting customer privacy first. Tunnelbear also goes above and beyond normal protection, with a Vigilant mode that kills all connections if the VPN connection is disrupted, plus a Ghostbear function that scrambles VPN communications, making them harder to spot and block. A great VPN with a likeable attitude.

4. Hide My Ass: The best VPN for travel

Price: £7.99 per month, £4.99 per month with annual contract

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Obviously, the best thing about Hide My Ass is the name, but look beyond that and the slick, donkey-flavoured UI and you have a VPN that ticks nearly every box. HMA has servers in over 280 locations across 190 countries, including 174 servers in the US. It’s easy to use, with an Instant Mode that takes you straight to the closest, fastest server, a Freedom Mode for use in countries that routinely block or censor, and a Location Mode where you can pick your country and location. Hide My Ass’s new Liberty Island location also gets past Netflix blocking.

Speeds are consistently impressive, but when using US servers from the UK we only saw a 36% reduction in connection speed; well above the 68% average. General protection features are good as well, with a killswitch and options to double-hop from one VPN server to another to cover your tracks. The only sticking points are that HMA is based in the UK – a member of the core five eyes network – and keeps logs, though HMA claims it doesn’t store or monitor the websites you visit or the services you connect to. All the same, this isn’t the ideal service if anonymity is your main concern.

5. IPVanish: The best VPN for expert users

Price: $7.50 (£5.73) per month, $4.87 (£3.72) per month with annual contract

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IPVanish is another VPN with a wide global reach, with over 850 servers in some 60-plus countries, serving up over 40,000 VPN IPs. 383 of these servers are based in the US, which makes sense as IPVanish is a US company. That might be a problem if you’re looking for maximum privacy and anonymity, though IPVanish has a no-logging policy and accepts Bitcoin for anonymous payments.

IPVanish’s PC client is quite sophisticated, giving plenty of control over nearly every aspect of the service. You can pick a country and let the app pick the optimal city and server, or configure both yourself. There’s a killswitch to drop all connections should your VPN link be disrupted, and you can set IPVanish to switch IP addresses every 45 minutes, and for added protection it can use its own DNS servers. Provided you’re comfortable with a US-based service it’s one of the best, though it’s a little slow when accessing stateside servers from abroad; we saw a high 72.5% reduction in connection speeds, though closer connections stayed in the 33% to 36% range.

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