An internet connection in today’s world is about as much of a necessity as running water. But like running water, healthcare, electricity, and other necessities in life – it ain’t free. In fact, an internet connection can be downright annoyingly pricey considering how low cost/high margin it is for internet service providers.
Whether you are fed up that you haven’t been able to lower your internet costs or you are traveling for work or pleasure, it’s good to know what your options are for grabbing free Wi-Fi, particularly if you don’t have access to a Wi-Fi hotspot via a mobile hotspot plan or via tethering from a mobile device.
Fortunately, there are a number of national restaurant chains that offer up free Wi-Fi at many of their locations. It’s a very low-cost, high-return value add to lure in loyal patrons – and because of that, you can only expect it to become increasingly popular with retailers and restaurants.
For now, here is a list of seven of the most popular free Wi-Fi locations in the country. Free Wi-Fi – when it’s a combination of at home, work, school, friends, family, and your favorite restaurants and coffee shops can allow you to make the shift from expensive “unlimited” plans to the cheapest data plans when you pair them with my tips on how to cut data use on iPhone & Android.
McDonald’s Free Wi-Fi
McDonald’s significantly upped the free Wi-Fi competition when it started offering it at over 11,500 locations in the US. Stores in Canada and the UK also offer up free Wi-Fi. Here is a location finder. I’m not a big fan of McDonald’s incredibly unhealthy menu, but I will give them a bit of credit for offering a few healthier products lately. Enjoy the free Wi-Fi, so long as you can stand the smell of grease for more than 5 minutes (in which case, you are stronger than I).
Starbucks Free WiFi
Starbucks offers free Wi-Fi at all 15,000+ cafe locations in the United States, putting it in close competition with McDonald’s as the nation’s largest free wifi provider. As the saying goes, “you can find a Starbucks on every corner”, and therefore, you can find free Wi-Fi on every corner too.
Starbucks has become a VERY popular option for Wi-Fi seekers. The last few times I’ve been there it has absolutely been packed with customers whose faces are focused on their laptop screens. In some ways, this is a little problematic. Most Starbucks locations are pretty tiny and there isn’t much room to find seating because people don’t freaking leave! And since there are dozens of customers all connected to the same connection at once, speeds on Starbucks Wi-Fi can be a bit slow, from my experience.
Burger King Free Wi-Fi
Burger King offers free Wi-Fi (dubbed “Whopper Wi-Fi”) at its 7,000+ Burger King locations. I haven’t had a Whopper in decades, but if I needed some free Wi-Fi… I probably still wouldn’t have a Whopper.
Panera Free Wi-Fi
Panera Bread has over 2,150+ locations in the U.S. and Canada. All of them have free Wi-Fi. I don’t eat at Panera often (not a big chain restaurant type guy), but if I were in need of some food and an internet connection at the same time, I’d hit up Panera. Their menu has some healthy alternatives and the food I’ve eaten there has been decent.
Buffalo Wild Wings Free Wi-Fi
Buffalo Wild Wings offers up free Wi-Fi at all of its locations. BW3, as it is affectionately called, has 1,216 locations across the country and are in almost every state. Probably not a great option if you like to eat healthy – but it’s the only option on this list where you can toss back a cold beer while connecting, and that’s worth something.
Taco Bell Free Wi-Fi
Taco Bell offers free Wi-Fi up at all 7,700+ US locations. Given how late their restaurants are open, this could be a great place to tap in to Wi-Fi during the later hours of the night. Just make sure you bring some Pepto-Bismol and wet wipes.
Dunkin’ Free Wi-Fi
Dunkin’ offers free Wi-Fi at all 8,500+ US locations. If you’re not looking for a meal and need some wi-fi, but don’t love hanging out with the Starbucks crowd, Dunkin’ seems like a great alternative.
Yeah, OK, it’s not really a “chain”, so to speak, but libraries are found nationally and in many places where restaurant chains are not. They are also the least guilt free way to find a free Wi-Fi internet connection without buying something or stealing it from your unsuspecting neighbors.
Whether the internet connection is through their machines, through an ethernet plug-in, or through Wi-Fi, the library is about the only place that you can go where you won’t get kicked out if you don’t buy something. Since the entire appeal of free Wi-Fi is the “free” part, that probably makes it the best place to grab an internet connection for free. When traveling, just do a Google Maps search for “library” and you’ll find a list of the closest locations.
Of course, internet is only one of many free things at the library.
A Word of Caution on Public Wi-Fi
Any time you connect to public Wi-Fi, you risk a hacker easily seeing your private login, password, and other data. If you are going to connect to public Wi-Fi, it’s highly recommended that you use encryption through an app like the 184.108.40.206 Warp app (free) or a paid VPN service.
Free Wi-Fi Discussion:
- Where have you gone for free Wi-Fi?
- Do you get the “free Wi-Fi guilt” if you aren’t buying something?