Since you’re not going to find unlimited data plans on the major carriers such as AT&T and Verizon anymore, and will have to deal with data caps or extra costs for tethering, it would be worth your time to take advantage of free internet wi-fi hotspots whenever possible. Doing so can possibly save you hundreds of dollars per year — maybe even per month — all depending on the amount of data you use.
Below you’ll find a list I created of 10 different places you can go to find free wi-fi. This list should apply almost no matter where you live in the US, and at the very least, will give you an idea of where to start looking.
- Cafes — In most cities, you can’t go a block without running into a Starbucks, and every one that I’ve been have free wi-fi access. Pete’s is another coffee place that offers free wi-fi. I’d be willing to bet that most cafes have internet access. It’s almost like it’s a rule or something.
- Libraries — Nearly every city or town has a local library. If your library doesn’t offer free wi-fi, you might check to see if they have computers that they let people use for 1/2 hour or hour at a time.
- Restaurants — Many of the larger chain restaurants are offering wi-fi access. For fast food places, you can access the internet at McDonald, Burger King and Subway. For general restaurants, you can access the wi-fi at IHOP, Sharris and Dennys.
- Out-of-Service Pay Phones — Ok, this might not be available to you unless you live in New York, but as you can see from our recent post, you can find a number of free wi-fi hotspots in the Big Apple disguised as pay phones.
- Colleges — From our experience most colleges offer internet access to their students. Unless you’re a student you’ll have a hard time connecting though, as many connections need a (student) ID card to get access.
- Apartment Complexes — Ok, I didn’t say all of these ideas were ethical, much less legal. 99.9% of the time I would suggest that you don’t piggyback off of someone else’s internet. In some states you can even get in trouble for it. However, if I was in an emergency (I needed directions), and it was in the middle of the night or something, I’d do it to access my GPS or email real quick.
- Book Stores — Like cafes, I think it’s just a rule that book stores have wi-fi access. Find a Barnes and Noble & you should be able to access the internet.
- Tech Related Stores – Apple, Office Depot, Best Buy — Almost a no-brainer, I think. Any store that sells computers is likely to have wi-fi access. I’m not sure you could sit inside the store all day and use the net though. You might be able to get away with sitting out in the parking lot.
- Transportation — Most airports and train stations will have free wi-fi access.
- Use an App — Another option is to use a wi-fi finder, such as Wi-Fi Finder by JiWire. This app shows you over 500,000 free (and paid) wi-fi hotspots in over 140 countries.
Like I said above, if you can’t find the specific location I mentioned above, just look for something like it. Also keep in mind that some establishments might ask that you buy something, such as food or coffee, in order to sit down and use their internet. But that’s a rather small price compared to what you’re saving in terms of data.