Best free email accounts reviewed
Email accounts - you need them for booking tickets, registering at websites, communicating with companies, and so much more. Even though some people claim email is dead due to the rise of chat platforms and collaboration tools, everyone uses email every day.
Not every email provider is completely free, and even free services often make you pay with your data. Advertisers and marketers love email as it allows them to send advertisements directly to your inbox - all they need to know is your email address, or start their marketing campaign via an email service provider. For that reason, it is important to pick an email provider carefully.
Finding the best email account at no cost among all available options can be as hard as finding a needle in a haystack. The challenge is to find an email provider that balances features, usability and security; maybe even with the ability to use encrypted email.
This guide of free email providers will help you pick the best email account so let's get started!
Basically any free email provider offers webmail access to users' mailboxes. Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and Outlook are some of the most common webmail services.
You can access your mailbox in the browser via a web client provided by the email service. In addition to this, most email services offer their own apps for Android and iOS, or let you direct your emails to apps and desktop clients with the help of email protocols such as IMAP and POP3.
These email protocols retrieve emails from the server to the client you are using. Your desktop client or mobile app fetches the emails with the help of these protocols to display them to you locally. Once downloaded from the server, the emails are (also) stored locally and can be accessed offline.
What is IMAP?
IMAP (internet mail access protocol) lets you fetch multiple email accounts so that the emails are all displayed in one app or desktop client like Thunderbird, Outlook or the Apple mail client.
What is POP3?
POP3 (post office protocol) fetches one email account so that all emails of this account are displayed locally in the app or desktop client of your choice.
Apps & desktop clients
Some webmail providers also offer their own apps for Android and iOS as well as desktop clients for Windows, Mac OS and Linux so that there is no need to use external protocols like IMAP or POP3 to fetch the emails.
Review of free email providers
After this excursion into email protocols, here is the review to find out which one is the best free email service.
No. 10: Gmail
Gmail is one of the most popular email providers. In 2018 Gmail had 1.5 billion active users.
Gmail also has the highest market share according to Litmus Labs. This ranking of market share is widely used to prove how successful Gmail is. However, the way the ranking works, it is not a valid source for calculating the market share of free email services: Litmus Labs calculates the ranking based on image opening (pixel tracking) by email users. On the site itself, it is stated: "Since determining the client in which an email is opened requires images to be displayed, the data for some email clients and mobile devices might be over- or under-represented due to automatic image blocking."
When an email provider - like Gmail - ranks high on such a site, this means that the service lets marketers easily track their users. The data is sent to marketers automatically as soon as the images in an email are loaded - privacy-friendly servicec block automatic image loading to protect their users from such tracking.
Gmail, for that matter, does not adequately protect their users from tracking. To the contrary, Gmail, or better the mother company Alphabet is known for its extensive tracking and profiling of Google and Gmail users. That's part of the business model where Google offers free services and then makes an astonishing amount of money by displaying targeted advertisements to its users.
Still, Gmail is the mostly used email provider, which is no surprise as Gmail offers an extensive set of features, lets you register as many free email accounts as you like - and each of these accounts comes with 15 GB of free storage.
Should you get a Gmail account? If you need 15 GB free storage and don't mind that Google massively profits of your data and posts targeted advertisements, then Gmail is the right free email provider for you.
Here is a more detailed review of Gmail features.
No 9: Yahoo! Mail
Yahoo! Mail comes with 1 TB of storage, which is one of the email providers with the most free storage you can get. Apart fom that, Yahoo! Mail is not much different from other free email services when it comes to features and usability.
With a well-designed search tool, it lets you easily find every picture or attachment you ever shared. Combined with the large storage, this makes Yahoo! Mail attractive to people who share a lot of attachments.
However, some reviews say that Yahoo! Mail is unusable as lots of features throw errors or are only half-baked. With its decline in popularity in recent years, which are also caused by scandals like the one where Yahoo gave access to all their email accounts to US authorities, it is worth noting that Yahoo! Mail is similar to Gmail in regards to user tracking and profiling.
Should you get a Yahoo Mail account? If you need 1 TB of free storage and don't mind that Yahoo! uses your data and spams your mailbox with advertisements, then a free email account with Yahoo! Mail is right for you.
Here is a more detailed review of Yahoo! Mail features.
No 8: Outlook
Outlook, previously known as Hotmail, is owned by Microsoft. Everyone can get a free outlook.com email account and use it as webmail or within mail clients, such as Microsoft's Outlook.
Similar to Gmail it comes with 15 GB of free storage, a clean interface and lots of features. Outlook also lets you connect lots of other services, such as Skype, Facebook, PowerPoint, PayPal, or task-management software such as Trello.
Should you get an Outlook account? If you are already used to the Outlook desktop client and don't mind Microsoft spying on you, Outlook personal email is the right pick for you.
Here is a more detailed review of Outlook features.
No 7: GMX Mail
GMX has been around since 1997, which makes it one of the email veterans. It offers 65 GB of free storage and lets you send files as large as 50 GB. While that's great for sharing lots of photos or videos, one has to keep in mind that all data shared via GMX - also all attachments - can be accessed by the provider.
As the others, GMX follows a business model based on advertisements. The service regularly sends emails of marketing partners to your inbox.
Should you get a GMX Mail account? If you don't mind advertisements being pushed to your inbox and you often need to share large, non-sensitive files, then GMX Mail is the right email provider for you.
Here is a more detailed review of GMX features.
The above email services usually come with a free calendar as well. If this is also of interest to you, please check our comparison of free calendars.
No 6 to 3: Paid email providers
If you are using one of the free email providers described above, you are still paying - not with cash, but with your data and ultimately with your privacy.
If you are willing to pay for an email service, you will also get to choose providers that do not use and sell your data for their own profits. Here's our list:
No 6: Hushmail, based in America, $9.99 per month
No 5: Fastmail, based in Australia, $3 per month
No 4: Startmail, based in the Netherlands, $59.95 per year
No 3: Posteo, based in Germany, €1 per month
No 2 & No 1: Protonmail & Tutanota
However, if you care about privacy and do not want your emails abused for advertisements, free email - even privacy-friendly - is available with these two services: Protonmail and Tutanota. These two are mentioned in every good review about free email providers.
Both offer a free account whereas the basic paid email account at Tutanota starts at €1 per month and at Protonmail at €5 per month. While Protonmail and Tutanota both focus on protecting users' privacy, they differ a lot when it comes to security and open source.
For instance, Tutanota has an F-Droid app and supports U2F for two-factor authentication, which is the most secure option for two-factor-authentication.
That's why it's also important to check out the detailed comparison: Tutanota vs Protonmail.