I have become a master of making sure there is free WiFi near me, no matter where I go.
You see, I have an amazing cell phone plan. It is less expensive than anyone I know on a per phone basis. There is one downside to that plan, and it is that my cell phone company will not let me upgrade to a smartphone and keep my plan, upgrading would double my monthly bill. For this reason I will refer to them as the awesome plan Nazis (APNs for short) from here on out and I will continue to use my dumb phone
So the APNs have forced me into a situation where I carry a seven inch tablet with me and use free wifi connections wherever I go to get the same effect as having a smartphone with me. It’s a little less convenient, but I will not let the APNs win.
So to my own benefit and now to yours here are all the places where I pick up free WiFi.
Free WiFi Restaurants
There are not tons of restaurants with free WiFi. This article will focus on the big boys, but if you are in a VERY small town with only local joints, one of them probably has open WiFi. No matter where you choose you should be able to access your
McDonald’s Free WiFi
McDonald’s offers free wifi service in over 11,500 locations. I will be the first to admit it is not always the fastest speeds, but in a pinch they are almost always within a few miles.
Starbucks Google/AT&T WiFi
Starbucks originally partnered with AT&T to provide free WiFi to anyone who visits any of their company owned locations. Google is slowly replacing AT&T in many of the locations and the speeds are much better at the Google provided locations
Be aware that locations inside of grocery stores and at places like Universal Studios are not company owned. Many times you cannot get WiFi at these locations and you cannot use your Starbucks gift cards at any of them. My experiences are almost as bad as with the awesome plan Nazis.
Panera Bread WiFi
Panera was a SUPER early adopter of the free WiFi idea. While I cannot prove this, I believe they forced Starbucks to quit playing the games they did with making people jump through hoops for internet. Panera is a great place to hang out if you want to get some work done. They have much larger tables than Starbucks.
Burger King WiFi
When McD’s went big with WiFi, Burger King wasn’t far behind. They are now offering free and open WiFi in most of their locations and in my small town the Burger King connection is faster than McDonald’s and the burgers taste better. There are over 7,500 Burger King locations inside the USA.
Dunkin Donuts WiFi
When I was working from my home the grand land of Dunkin was a great spot to sit and get some work done. Plus you can buy a donut and a cup of water for less than $2 and sit there as long as you like. Dunkin’ Donuts has more than 8,000 locations in the US and the best donuts (no matter what you Krispy Kreme people say).
Taco Bell WiFi
This purveyor of great tasting Mexican style food now offers WiFi service for free at most of their locations. In my experience they do kick you off after a couple of hours. Still, there are 6,500 location to choose from.
Yep the roast beef king wants to compete with the big boys and offers wireless internet for free at most of their over 3,000 locations.
For this list Denny’s is probably the smallest. Only 1,700 locations, but their grand slam is better than the other restaurant’s breakfast choices.
The Christian Chicken offers free WiFi at their almost 2,000 locations. So not only do you get really good chicken and the best customer service, but it is their pleasure to provide you with internet too.
They didn’t used to be as reliable at having service as the other burger chains, but I haven’t run into one in a long time that didn’t have WiFi. They also tend to have really great speeds because nobody thinks about them when they look for a place to pull out their laptop.
Retail Locations with Free Wifi
With so many people carrying around smart devices, the retailers have really gotten in on the WiFi craze. Once again, there can always be a local chain that provides service but we will focus on all the retailer that are national and the ones I check first when looking for wifi near me.
Target has really gotten in on digital marketing. They do a great job of collecting data on their customers through the Target RedCard and their cartwheel app. To make sure you can access the app they offer free WiFi in their almost 1,800 stores. If you are interested in learning more about saving money, check out my Target shopping guide.
Wal-Mart is the king of market trends when it comes to retail. They were a little slow to the free WiFi party but they are catching up fast and offering it at many of their more than 5,000 stores nationwide.
If anyone is competing with Target in providing more ways to save money it is Kohl’s. Many times you can get a coupon for just logging into the free Kohl’s WiFi and accessing their app. Learn more about Kohl’s deals and shopping hacks.
We wouldn’t want our home improvement fanatatics to go without some free WiFi love. Lowes locations offer wireless internet for free. It is one of the slower ones I have run across, but it works when I need it.
If you need to check Pinterest one more time before picking up all your supplies then you can do that from the free Michael’s WiFi in their over 1,100 stores.
Apple Store WiFi
Don’t go to the Apple Store, apple is evil and a co-conspirator with the awesome plan Nazis.
Jiffy Lube WiFi
When people are sitting around waiting on an oil or brake change picking up the free Jiffy Lube wifi will keep them from focusing on the guy who just took his third smoke break.
Other Place to Get Free WiFi
If these private sector locations weren’t enough then you can always go the public route.
Libraries carry internet access so people who cannot afford it can look for jobs, do research, and whatever else they need.
You wouldn’t believe it, but county courthouses are offering free WiFi to people who come in for court. My last call in for jury duty I sat there and waited for them to pass over my name, while playing Words with Friends.
Like I said before, I live in a small town. Small towns and large all over the country are adding free town WiFi to help people get easier access.
Free Wireless Data Service
My final resort is to use our FreedomPop smart phone. We added this smartphone to see if the service was comparable to our current voice service. The voice services are not as good but the data works just fine. For no charge at all you get 500 MB per month of data.
This isn’t what I would watch Netflix with, but for web surfing and checking e-mail it is a great option. I added the PDANet app so I could sync easily over a USB cable, but some of the phones will work with FoxFi.
It’s not as convenient as having mobile data on your phone, but I am doing pretty well without having that feature available to me at all times. By having free WiFi near me pretty much wherever I go, I can wait out the awesome plan Nazis till they give in to my demands or I find another carrier who can get the price down close to my current plan.