As the internet has matured and more people have grown up connected to mobile apps and the web, online dating has evolved into a mainstream way to meet new people. In fact, dating sites and dating apps are now among the most common ways for prospective partners to meet one another, especially when it’s difficult to meet new people in public settings.
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There’s no shortage of dating sites or apps to choose from, and most are free to varying degrees. Here are seven of the best free dating sites that you can access via the web or on a mobile app.
Facebook Dating quickly rose to be one of the best free dating sites. Unlike the alternatives, it is completely free with no in-app subscriptions or purchases, and it’s easy to build a profile because it lets you draw on your existing Facebook profile. In addition, it’s somewhat less common to encounter fake profiles because the entire service is built on Facebook, and users can optionally share their Facebook profiles with one another. Facebook Dating avoids matching you with your existing Facebook friends, but you can use common interests and Facebook groups to find potential matches.
It’s only available in the mobile app (iOS, Android), so you can’t access it in the Facebook website on your computer. And while that might be something of a disadvantage, Facebook Dating has a lot of other upsides, including the ability to take a second look at profiles you initially passed on and the chance to match up with your “secret crush” – a person that’s listed among your friends on Facebook or a follower on Instagram.
Tinder is the dating app that essentially invented the idea of swiping right and left to match or reject potential partners — a dating app mechanic that is now commonly used in most other apps. If both of you like each other’s profiles, you’ve matched and can then start a text conversation or have a video chat within the app. In addition, it has a slew of “Discover” modes designed to connect you with potential matches.
You can use these basic features for free, but it comes with significant limitations. You can only swipe right up to 100 times per day, for example, without upgrading to unlimited likes with Tinder Plus ($10 per month if you’re under 30, otherwise $20 per month). And for a better chance of matching with someone, you’ll want to upgrade to Tinder Gold (which starts around $30 per month) so you can see users who have already liked you, as well as get other advanced features like the ability to message users before liking them and “rewinds,” which are essentially swiping undos.
OKCupid is part of the same dating app family as Match, Tinder, and Hinge — they are all owned by the same parent company. Even so, OKCupid tries to differentiate itself by collecting a lot of information about you when you create a profile and giving you the opportunity to answer a lot of optional questions to create a more nuanced profile. The site also gives you a wealth of ways to self-identify your gender and sexuality, more so than most others. Once your profile is set up, the app tracks users who like your profile as well as potential matches who have a high percentage of interests and answers in common with you.
But while the app can be used for free, with an upgrade to OKCupid Premium — which starts at $39.99 per month (it’s cheaper if you subscribe for more than a month at a time) — you can see people who have liked you so you can like them back. In addition, upgrading buys you unlimited likes and an ad-free experience.
Bumble is distinctive among dating apps. While the basic mechanism is the same as many other dating services (you swipe to like or dislike profiles), Bumble is a women-first dating experience in its heterosexual matching iteration. Once a man matches with a woman, the woman has to make the first move, so a man can’t message a potential match until she’s already started the conversation, and if that doesn’t happen within 24 hours of a match, the connection disappears. That’s a great feature that puts women in control of the meeting tempo, but some guys might be less than thrilled with that arrangement.
Most of the site’s basic features are available for free, though like with most dating apps, it’s a limited experience. Messaging is completely unlocked even using the free app, but you can only see who has already liked you if you upgrade to Bumble Premium, which is offered in a variety of subscription lengths. Those paid options also include a one-time lifetime fee or even a daily and weekly subscription.
Like Facebook Dating, Hinge is only available as a mobile app (iOS and Android), not on the web. The trade-off is that the app has some of the most clever profiles around, which makes it more fun, if not necessarily easier, to find a good match. Aside from the usual basic stats, Hinge profiles encourage you to match photos with captions and answer written “prompts,” and you can record audio clips which lets you actually hear your potential date. It’s all very charming.
But the app offers a limited suite of features for free. You only get a dozen free likes per day, and you’ll need to subscribe to see everyone who has liked you (your latest like is the lone visible person for a free subscription). Subscriptions start at $29.99 per month (it’s cheaper if you purchase longer subscriptions).
Plenty of Fish
Plenty of Fish might not have the same audience size as sites like Tinder and Bumble, but it’s still a very popular option — and it has the advantage of being a free dating site with the least expensive subscription rate if you choose to upgrade to a paid plan. While the free version lets you take advantage of the app’s standard features like viewing profiles and sending and receiving messages, you can upgrade your membership for as little as $10 per month if you sign up for a full year, but even a three-month plan is a $20 per month. Upgrading nets you the ability to see which users have liked you as well as expedited access to the site’s newest users, who might be more likely to respond to you.
Match is one of the oldest online dating services, long predating mobile apps, and it collects a lot of information about you to create profiles you can use to find a good connection. Like many dating sites, Match in its premium version lets you stand out with boosts (to put your profile at the top of the heap) and super likes (which let you get the attention of someone you really like.
But the free aspects of Match are fairly limited. You can only like or dismiss potential partners and send a few messages to people you have paired with. To really communicate with anyone within the app or website, you must pay to upgrade to Match Premium, which starts at $35 per month for a minimum of three months. The per-month rate drops with six- and 12-month plans, but either way, it’s an investment. You can sign up for a single month, but Match doesn’t make it easy to find that option.