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All email addresses you provide will be used just for sending this story. To pay or not to pay: That is the question. If your goal is to get a date—or find a mate—are you better off with one type over the other? In the Consumer Reports Online Dating Survey , more than 9, people who had used an online dating service in the last two years were asked which one they had joined. Forty-eight percent said Match, a paid site, but PlentyOfFish free and eHarmony paid tied for second most popular, with 23 percent apiece.
But in terms of overall satisfaction, our survey found that free dating sites actually score a touch better than paid ones, probably because they're a better value. Although our survey found that no dating site or app sweeps online daters off their feet in the satisfaction department, OkCupid is rated highest overall by respondents, and Grindr, a free app for gay men, is also near the top.
Some experts argue that paid sites attract more serious users. Even Tinder, despite its reputation for attracting users seeking causal romance, may deserve a more open mind. On a site like OkCupid anyone can send you a message, whereas on the free app Bumble or on Tinder or eHarmony, only people you are matched with can get in touch.
Perhaps beyond just charging for messages, sites could adjust the price according to how high quality someone's engagement seems to be. In the meantime, the bottom line is that while some users think quality does come at a price, there are benefits to free dating services as well. Online daters may be best off trying both types. Our survey suggests that 45 percent of online daters have tried multiple dating websites or apps.
Most services charge a monthly fee for a subscription period of one month to a year if you want to be able to contact other members. If you're just not sure you want to commit to a monthly subscription, you may want to try a free dating site.
These sites don't make you pay to communicate with other members, though some may offer premium features that you do need to pay for. Features vary widely, but experts warn you should be more on your guard for scammers on free sites. You may also find fewer people looking for something serious on these sites. Matchmaking websites take a more scientific approach than search-driven online dating sites by hiring notable consultants to create compatibility or personality questionnaires.
Users must fill out one of these before they can create a profile. Typically, the pairing up is done for you based on your answers, though some matchmaking sites also allow users to search profiles for themselves. Generally, matchmaking websites are considered a better route for singles looking for a long-term relationship since users must be more invested in the process to join.
There are dozens of expert reviews and roundups of online dating sites, many of which involve hands-on testing.
The most helpful include detailed comparative reviews and rankings based on real-world usage from sites including Ask Men, Top Ten Reviews and Digital Trends. Expert roundups from sites such as CNET were also helpful, even if they didn't involve rankings. Though we hold user reviews of products in high esteem, such reviews of online dating sites are hard to evaluate, as they tend to be highly negative: One bad experience is often enough for reviewers to write off a particular service entirely.
To evaluate reviews, we focused on membership, ease of use, features, cost and security of each site or app. Started in , the site had 35 million unique monthly visitors in November , according to Statista.
Members skew a bit older: Seventy-four percent of members say they have at least some college or a college degree. Most experts agree that Match. Though its interface is busy, the tradeoff is extensive search options that make it easier to find dates that better match what you're looking for.
However, if someone catches your eye, you must pay for a one-, three-, six- or month subscription to communicate with other members Est. If you don't find someone during that time, they will give you another six months free.
However, you must comply with certain rules, including communicating with at least five different members via email each month. If you want to try the site for free, email promotions sometimes yield a free-trial offer that lets you have full access for a few days. When you're a free member, potential matches are sent to your inbox, but reviewers and users warn that many of the matches are inactive members, and you can't find out who is an active subscriber until you sign up.
Additionally, more than a few past users report getting a flurry of matches in their inbox after canceling when, as subscribers, they got very few. There's no certain way to know how many members are inactive, but in , a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit alleging that more than half of member profiles were inactive or fake. A more recent class-action lawsuit alleging Match. The site claims 33 million visible profiles, and while it doesn't publish a demographic breakdown, users skew younger and tend to be looking for more casual relationships, experts say.
Zoosk has a cleaner, more intuitive interface than Match. As you use the site more, you'll receive more tailored recommendations. This includes use of the site's chat function. Subscriptions are available for one month, three months and six months Est. You can also buy or earn "Zoosk coins" regardless of whether you have a subscription to do things like boost your profile visibility and see whether members have read your messages.
There is no money-back guarantee. Apps are available for iOS and Android devices. Some reviewers complain that Zoosk sends too many emails and texts regarding activity on the site, though potential members should note that they can opt out of such messages. Many reviewers also say that it's hard to tell whether members have paid subscriptions, leading them to try contacting people who have no way of receiving their messages.
Others don't like being pressured into buying coins for other features even after they've paid for a subscription. As for safety, Zoosk has an extensive online-dating security guide on its site, but says it "does not routinely screen our members" against any sort of database, unlike Match. While many dating sites follow a subscription-based model that requires you to pay to communicate with other members, some allow you to do so for free.
Free sites typically make money via ads or paid upgrades that let members unlock additional features. While free sites have undeniable appeal, consider the flip side: Since it's easy to join, they may attract many users who only want a fling, or worse, scammers who have eyes only for your wallet.
If you feel like too many online dating sites emphasize beauty over brains, OkCupid Free gives you a chance to show off your quirky side in hopes of finding a kindred spirit. One of its main features is matchmaking questions that sometimes err a bit on the goofier side "Which would you rather be? Launched in , the site had just over 10 million unique monthly visitors in November , according to Statista. Experts say users are looking for a range of relationships here, but are more interested in casual relationships than some other dating sites, such as Match.
Aside from completing its questionnaire, OkCupid also lets you write a profile essay and conduct your own search for others using criteria including age, location, marital status and sexual preference. Unlike sites such as Match. A number of advanced features are available if you sign up for a premium "A-List" membership Est.
Reviewers warn that the ability to use OkCupid for free means scammers have free reign -- there are many tales of users coming on strong and eventually asking for personal details and money. On the plus side, your profile is available only to OkCupid users who are signed in to the site. Unlike most other online dating sites, you can see the last time someone was online, so you can tell if a match has been inactive for a while.
Though there are safety tips on the site, OkCupid says it does not screen its members. Another free site, Plenty of Fish free , claims to be "the world's largest dating site" and says it has million registered users worldwide. That's a staggering number, but how many of those accounts are active is unclear; there were 23 million unique monthly visitors in November , according to Statista.