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Proton VPN vs. NordVPN—Which Is a Better Choice for You?

Ashley Ferraro, Product
Jun 19, 2024
 • 
10
 Min Read

In 2023, the number of people who use VPNs surged to 1.6 billion, a testament to the increasing demand for online privacy and security. Amidst this trend, Proton VPN and NordVPN have emerged as popular choices in the VPN market. NordVPN alone has more than 14 million users, and Proton, Proton VPN’s parent company that also runs Proton Mail, protects over 100 million users

This Proton VPN vs. NordVPN comparison will describe what sets these services apart, providing the information you need to choose which one’s right for you. If you're concerned about the security of your financial details, this article will also introduce a dedicated service that can protect you when transacting online.

The information presented in this article is valid as of April 2024. Please check the VPNs' websites for the latest data regarding server numbers, locations, features, and performance.

Proton VPN vs. NordVPN—A Direct Comparison

A photo of a person's hands, activating VPN on smartphone
Source: Stefan Coders

From a large number of server locations to features that protect their users from unwanted ads, Proton VPN and NordVPN have plenty to offer. The best way to compare the two is to organize their offerings into six distinct areas:

  1. Security features
  2. Speed and performance
  3. Global server network
  4. Device compatibility and support
  5. User experience
  6. Pricing

Security Features

Proton VPN and NordVPN offer users a choice of VPN protocols, including OpenVPN, IKEv2, and WireGuard, which NordVPN used to develop its NordLynx protocol[1][2]. The services use AES-256, an encryption cipher used by the military, and the newer and potentially faster ChaCha20. Both services have a strict no-logs policy, ensuring your online activities are not tracked or recorded.

Other features the two share include: 

Feature What it does
Ad and tracker blocking Protects users from tracking, unwanted ads, and malicious links.
Multihop  Routes traffic through two VPN servers for double encryption.
Kill switch  Automatically blocks traffic if the VPN connection drops. 
Tor over VPN Allows access to the Tor network without a specialized browser.
Private DNS Protects against DNS hijacking and DNS leaks and boosts speed.
Split tunneling Enables apps to access the internet regularly, even with a VPN on.
Dedicated IP Assigns the user a dedicated, static IP address. 

Each VPN provider also has features that make them distinct. Proton VPN has its custom Stealth protocol, which lets users bypass VPN blocks. NordVPN runs obfuscated servers, which make their users’ connections appear as if they’re not using a VPN. 

NordVPN’s Meshnet feature allows users to create local networks and access their devices remotely. While Proton VPN supports 2FA with authenticator apps, NordVPN also supports using security keys for the second authentication step. 

Speed and Performance

NordVPN and Proton VPN are both capable of delivering impressive speeds. A third-party test[3] found that NordVPN is the fastest VPN on the market, with an average speed of 341.5 Mbps and a speed loss of about 10%. The same results show that Proton VPN achieved a top speed of 328 Mbps. The test found Proton VPN’s speed performance inconsistent, dropping to as low as 3 Mbps during testing, with an average speed loss of 36%. 

While Proton VPN’s speed can be enough for light browsing, users who need a more consistent performance might benefit more from the higher speed offered by NordVPN. The actual speed also depends on the internet connection, server congestion, and the protocol used. 

Global Server Network

An image of a global map overlaid with a transparent padlock
Source: Tumisu

Proton VPN operates over 4,900 servers in 91 countries, while NordVPN has over 6,300 servers spread across 111 countries[4][5]. NordVPN's larger server network can provide more options for connection points, potentially reducing network congestion and improving connection quality. 

Still, Proton VPN's network includes Secure Core servers in privacy-friendly locations, such as Switzerland, which can benefit users who want the highest level of privacy.

Device Compatibility and Support

Proton VPN and NordVPN both offer extensive device compatibility. Both VPNs support various platforms and devices, including:

  • iOS
  • Android
  • Mac
  • Windows
  • Linux

If either VPN is installed on a router, it secures every device on the network using only a single device slot.

User Experience

Proton VPN and NordVPN offer user-friendly interfaces, which can be suitable for first-time and experienced users alike. Both apps are generally stable, with few reported issues.

The key difference lies in their customer support. Proton VPN offers support via email, while NordVPN provides 24/7 support via live chat and email, which could be a deciding factor for users who value readily available assistance.

Pricing

In terms of pricing, Proton VPN can be more expensive on the yearly plans, but cheaper for monthly plans. NordVPN offers bundles with different features and Proton VPN doesn’t, so which one is more affordable also depends on the NordVPN bundle the user wants to choose.

Proton VPN offers its service for free, albeit with some limitations. Users who opt for it can only use the VPN on one device at a time and can access servers in a limited number of locations—but without the ability to choose which location they connect to. 

Proton VPN vs. NordVPN—Still Not Sure?

Users who like to know their options or can’t find a particular feature have plenty of other options to choose from. Other VPNs worth considering include: 

Do VPNs Protect From Every Threat? 

VPNs are a great tool for enhancing privacy and security, but their ability to protect you has its limits. They cannot protect the information you provide to third parties, such as online stores, for example. In that case, the security of your payment card details is in the hands of the merchant, and no matter how much you trust them, data breaches still happen. 

What you can do to protect your information in that scenario is to use a virtual card. These cards include randomly generated unique card numbers for each transaction or specific vendor, which can help protect your real payment card information in case of a breach. 

While some banks issue virtual cards as part of their service, dedicated card providers like Privacy typically offer advanced security, convenience, and customization features.

A photo of a person holding a payment card while using a laptop
Source: Mikhail Nilov

Enhance Your Safety Online With Privacy Virtual Cards

Privacy Virtual Cards create an additional layer of protection for your online transactions. When you checkout to complete a purchase, you provide your virtual card number (which is linked to your bank account) to the merchant instead of your actual card number. Your underlying financial information doesn’t get shared with the merchant, keeping it protected from potential breaches and misuse.

Privacy uses industry-standard security measures to keep your financial information secure, such as:

  • Two-factor authentication—When you log in, you'll need to provide two forms of identification. By default, Privacy uses email, but it also allows users to set up SMS and authenticator apps as the second factor. 
  • Integration with 1Password—Privacy integrates with 1Password, one of the top of choices for password managers. It allows you to easily create and store and your virtual cards within 1Password’s platform
  • Strong encryption—Privacy uses military-grade AES-256 encryption to protect your data, reducing the risk of hackers intercepting and misusing your sensitive details.

Privacy Card Types and Features

A photo of a person holding a payment card in one hand while typing on a laptop with the other
Source: Karolina Grabowska

Privacy offers two types of virtual cards:

  1. Single-Use Cards—These cards are designed for one-time use. Shortly after a transaction is completed, the card automatically closes, preventing further charges. They can be useful when making purchases from new or untrusted merchants.
  2. Merchant-Locked Cards—These cards “lock” to the first merchant they're used with. Even if your card information is compromised, it can't be used elsewhere. These cards are ideal for your favorite vendors and subscriptions.

With Privacy, you can set specific spending limits on your cards, protecting you from charges that exceed those limits as they get automatically denied. You can also pause and close your virtual cards anytime, which is a great option to have when canceling subscriptions as it can protect your bank account against accidental charges. 

Convenience Features

Privacy cards offer the following convenience features to all its users:

  • Mobile app—Privacy mobile app, compatible with iOS and Android devices, enables you to generate new virtual card numbers and manage your existing cards whenever you wish.
  • Browser extension—Privacy offers a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari (or Safari for iOS for mobile users). The extension allows you to create new virtual card numbers and autofill them during checkouts, making online transactions seamless.
  • Transaction alerts—Privacy sends push notifications and emails every time a transaction is approved or declined. This allows you to closely monitor all account activity.

How To Get a Privacy Virtual Card

To get started with Privacy, all you have to do is:

  1. Register
  2. Provide the required know-your-customer (KYC) information
  3. Add a funding source, such as a debit card or your bank account
  4. Request a virtual card

You can choose from any of the three monthly plans Privacy offers:

Plan Cost What You Get
Personal Free for domestic purchases
  • Up to 12 unique virtual cards per month

  • All card controls

  • Mobile app and browser extension

Pro $10 per month
  • Personal plan features

  • Up to 36 unique virtual cards per month

  • 1% cashback on eligible purchases (up to $4,500 per month)

  • Priority support

  • No foreign transaction fees

Premium $25 per month
  • Pro plan features

  • Up to 60 unique virtual cards per month

References

[1] Proton VPN https://protonvpn.com/features/strong-protocols, sourced April 9, 2024
[2] NordVPN https://nordvpn.com/features/next-generation-encryption/, sourced April 9, 2024
[3] CNET https://www.cnet.com/tech/services-and-software/fastest-vpn/, sourced April 9, 2024
[4] Proton VPN. https://protonvpn.com/vpn-servers, sourced April 9, 2024
[5] NordVPN. https://nordvpn.com/features/fastest-vpn/, sourced April 9, 2024

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