Managing your passwords online can be inconvenient, especially if you feel pressured to pay for a password management service. But is that necessary? Do you have to pay for a password manager in order to be safe online?
Most regular internet users do not need to pay for a password manager; free options exist that will keep your data secure without any issues. For businesses and those looking for more advanced features, paid password management programs can be worth looking into.
Here’s what you need to know about password management programs, including some recommendations for both free and paid options.
Why Do You Need a Password Manager?
Popular online data company Dashlane found that the average American online has more than 150 online accounts requiring a password. They predict that by 2022, this number will have doubled to 300 accounts per person.
Ideally, you should have a unique password for each and every account you have – so how do you memorize and organize 300 passwords? The issue compounds when you realize that most internet users have multiple devices to keep track of; this password needs to be one you can remember to use on your desktop, laptop, phone, or tablet.
Unfortunately, this usually means that, instead of creating unique passwords, we instead rely on a few repeat passwords across all accounts. This poses an intense security risk – if one password is leaked, many of your other accounts are compromised.
This is why password managers exist. Password managers store and sort unique passwords for all of your accounts, usually across multiple devices, meaning that you don’t have to memorize them and you don’t have to risk multiple compromises if one account is breached. Only 12% of Americans currently use a password management system, though this number is on the rise.
Free Vs. Paid Password Managers
There are advantages to using both free and paid password managers, but determining which is right for you comes down to how you intend to use it and how many options you need.
Free Password Managers
A free password manager will work well enough for most people. Some browsers like Chrome or Firefox have them built-in at no cost to the user; their digital password vault can be accessed across multiple devices and can store a nearly unlimited amount of password information. Additionally, there’s very little correlation between the amount you pay for a manager and the amount of protection it offers. Using a free password manager, especially if you already have relatively strong passwords, is fine.
That being said, free password managers do have their limitations. Browser-based programs are frequently locked to one device, which can be inconvenient if you need access on multiple platforms. They also store your passwords in plain text, while dedicated clients encrypt them. So, if you choose to use a free password manager, opt for a dedicated client that is unaffiliated with a particular browser.
Paid Password Managers
For those wanting to take on extra security measures, a paid subscription to a password management service or a purchased program can offer better peace of mind. These services typically include not just password management vaults online, but also offline storage, dark web identity monitoring, emergency access, encryption, and many more features.
Paid password managers are also relatively cheap, costing anywhere from around $3 to upwards of $10 per month. You can also usually get them at a discounted rate, or sometimes for free, through an employer. This is especially true if you work in the IT or journalism fields.
So, if you intend to use a password manager solely to store passwords, free programs are fine. If you are using the manager for a business or if you want additional security features, then paying for a password manager might be a good option for you.
The Best Free and Paid Password Managers on the Market
There are lots of password managers across the pricing spectrum on the market today, but here are the top picks.
- Myki is a free password management service that is available across multiple devices. They offer on-device storage, multiple browser extensions, one-click authentication, and two-factor authentication, as well as strength reports for your passwords and secure sharing. Unfortunately, according to PC Mag, they don’t offer a security dashboard for their desktop app and the information stored with them isn’t uniformly available.
- 1Password is a paid password manager with subscriptions ranging from $2.99 to $19.95 per month depending on whether you have a personal or business account. It has apps on Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Monterey (though some of the features seem locked to certain operating systems). It also has Travel Mode, allowing you to delete sensitive data from your device before you travel and restore it when you come home, which can be very convenient for frequent business travelers.
- Bitwarden is a free password manager that is highly rated and frequently referred to as the best free option. It has an unlimited free version and inexpensive premium upgrading (starting at about $10 a year); it also offers access on Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux, as well as two-factor authentication and browser plugins for multiple popular browsers. This manager is very straightforward, but not necessarily intuitive for new users.
- Dashlane is a password manager with both free and paid options available. They do offer a 30-day free trial of the premium version so that you can test its wide array of features before committing to paying roughly $7 per month. It’s got a web-based interface rather than a local app, which can be disconcerting for some users, but it also has monitoring for breaches and automatic alerts. The premium options also offer encryption, up to five email addresses, and a VPN, among other features.
Password management can seem incredibly daunting if you’re looking into it for the first time. The sheer number of options and features can be confusing and leave you wondering exactly what it is you need.
For the simplest of uses – protecting your password integrity across accounts and devices – a free password manager can be perfectly suitable. If you need slightly more advanced protection or protection for multiple people, then a subscription service may be the right option for you. As long as you know what you’re looking for, choosing a password manager can be relatively straightforward.