Everyone has been there before: Away from home and looking for a solid internet connection, preferably without shelling out a bunch of money. But not all free Wi-Fi is created equal.
We've assembled speed tests from Wi-Fi watchdog organizations including Open Signal and RottenWifi to bring you a comprehensive list of chains with the best free internet access, ranked by download speed.
Peet's Coffee might be a quickly expanding character in the coffee game, but its Wi-Fi still leaves a lot to be desired. It's consistently too slow to stream YouTube videos, which raises the question: With download speeds that slow, are you really connected to the internet?
If you need to check your Instagram feed while you're drinking your Frosty, you can totally do it while connected to Wendy's free Wi-Fi. Its internet speeds aren't breaking any records, but you can load pages fast enough to casually surf the Web.
Panera Bread has dependably stable Wi-Fi at around 1Mbps down, but you may get bumped off the network after 30 minutes during the sandwich shop's busier hours. Lunch and dinner rushes at some of its stores have led it to implement a half-hour time limit per computer.
Dunkin' Donuts is a secret study spot for people whose more obvious coffee shop options are consistently like a freeway at rush hour with no open seats and even fewer electrical outlets. It's a little too slow to stream video, but getting some work done on Dunkin's free Wi-Fi is totally possible. It even has coffee!
If you don't have cell phone service in Target and need to compare prices online, log onto Target's guest Wi-Fi and surf to your heart's content. As an added bonus, your devices will automatically find the Wi-Fi in any Target store going forward.
After free Wi-Fi was installed in the chicken chain's UK locations, one town opted to ban customers under 18 from fast food establishments with internet connectivity. We don't think US stores are in much danger of being overrun with kids; after all, the Wi-Fi is on the slower side.
The Canadian-based doughnut and coffee chain has room to grow as far as its Wi-Fi speeds are concerned. The 4G on your phone will be between twice and six times as fast.
Access your Pinterest board or search the hardware store's inventory online, even in places with no cell coverage. If do you have cell phone coverage, though, it will likely be a lot faster.
As far as coffee shops go, the Wi-Fi at Coffee Bean leaves plenty to be desired. The Wi-Fi will seem like it runs at warp speed compared with the minuscule connectivity at Peet's, but it's not the best place to access the cloud while you caffeinate...not by a long shot.
You would think that a monarch would have a lightning-fast internet connection, but the Wi-Fi you'll get with your Whopper is just OK. The connection is fast enough for loading a regular Web page, but if you need to do any serious streaming or updating, we'd recommend going to one of the later chains on this list.
The electronics giant chose to install free Wi-Fi in all of its stores so customers could easily research items they are thinking about buying, no batter how bad the cell phone reception. You can also check the weather on the display computers, which is kind of fun.
Few people can resist McDonald's french fries, so next time you need to write a term paper, skip the library and head straight for your fix of hot fries and a cold McFlurry. McDonald's Wi-Fi is consistently more than four times faster than the internet at Panera Bread.
For a place that will sell you a foot-long sandwich for just $5, the nearly 5Mbps download speed is good enough to get some work done on your lunch break. Treat yourself to a fresh-baked cookie on your way out.
From one sandwich shop to another, suddenly we're moving about three times faster. Arby's has a monopoly on places to score a massive roast beef sandwich and effectively stream HD video in pretty much any city in the country. Don't sleep on the seasoned curly fries, either.
Taco Bell was late to the free Wi-Fi game, not offering the service in its 5,600 stores until 2011. But it's already beating out fast food competitors McDonald's and Burger King by a factor of more than three in terms of download speed. If you're craving a Breakfast Crunchwrap, Taco Bell is actually an OK place to get some work done in the morning.
Ever since Starbucks made the switch to Google Wi-Fi in 2014, the coffee giant has upped its internet game significantly. Speed tests have clocked its download speeds into the 50Mbps range, which is about twice as fast as Netflix recommends for streaming Ultra HD quality video.