Are completely free dating sites worth the money? What about sites that offer both free and paid versions? If you’re dating again later in life and are new to dating apps and sites, these are good questions.
The short answer is that yes, paid dating sites are worth the small monthly investment. There are factors such as privacy, security, features, tech support, and user experience that make the paid dating sites a better choice compared to the completely free dating sites.
Yet the main reason that paid dating apps are the better choice is something else that most people don’t realize.
Allow me to explain.
Completely Free Dating App Agendas
There’s a truism in marketing (that’s the professional world I come from) that if you’re not paying for a product, YOU are the product. This means the free service is selling specific information about you, your behavior, your preferences, or other demographic details.
This is just another way of re-stating the cliché that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
But does “free” mean the dating app is less effective?
It depends on your tolerance level for advertising. Free dating sites and apps need to earn revenue. There are two ways they do this.
One – they offer a limited free version (a “freemium model”) with paid upgrades available to access better features or services. This is how most dating sites work. These freemium model sites don’t fit into the category of completely free dating sites.
Two – they remain completely free but earn revenue through ads. These ads can appear on the platform itself, or they appear in emails. And it’s likely there will be tons of emails offering all sorts of products. Unless otherwise stated in their terms of service, it’s likely they also sell information about their users.
So, if you’re using a 100 percent free dating site, the user experience might be unpleasant.
Consumer Choice Between Free and Paid
When consumers were asked about their preferences, free sites scored just a tiny bit better, likely because the “free” factor makes them seem like a better value. But it’s always more accurate to look at what people do, rather than what they say. And the fact is that two of the top three sites used by consumers are paid.
Here are some reasons why I believe this to be the case, that paid dating apps and sites hold the advantage.
Disadvantages of Free No-Pay Dating Sites
Totally free dating sites also tend to be lacking in several other areas.
Privacy and Security Concerns
Free dating sites might not have stringent safety and verification measures, making it easier for malicious actors to create fake profiles. Paid sites typically have dedicated customer support teams that can promptly address any privacy or security concerns.
Negative User Experiences
A significant number of users have reported negative experiences on free dating apps, which can lead to dissatisfaction and disillusionment. A survey of online dating site users form Pew Research Center found that overall, about half of online daters (paid or free) say their experiences have been negative. Yet they go on to say that those who pay to use dating apps have more positive experiences than those who never paid.
Remember, totally free dating sites need to earn revenue and one way they do this is through ad placements on the site or in emails, and by selling information.
Lack of Genuine Intent
Some users on completely free dating sites might not have a genuine intent to meet up or form meaningful connections. Their interest is more casual. Perhaps they just want to look around. The problem is it takes time to sort through these casual observers.
Free dating sites also attract more scammers because it doesn’t cost anything to join and because security is typically more lax.
Scammers use fake profiles to ply their trade. Free sites will have a higher percentage of fake profiles. This means you might find yourself wasting a lot of time weeding out the fake from the real.
Limited Features and Functionality
While free dating apps offer basic features, they might lack advanced features that can enhance the user experience and increase the chances of finding a compatible match.
Paid versions offer much better search features. Refining your search to screen out incompatible matches will save you plenty of time and prevent lots of needless first dates. For example, if you’re a non-smoker, you don’t want to have to message everyone you meet to find out their smoking status. Not when a simple screening feature can do that for you.
Another major limitation found in free dating apps are restrictions on the search area. In a dense metro area, some apps limit your searches to just a few surrounding blocks or a neighborhood. You want to be able to determine an acceptable search radius. This is something that’s typically only available in paid versions.
Another limitation in many free dating platforms is the inability to see who likes or views your profile. The reason people want this feature is so they can see who is liking them without having to commit to a response.
“I definitely decided to match or message with some men I would’ve left-swiped on if I hadn’t known they were interested in me.”
Advantages of Paid Dating Sites and Apps
Aside from the disadvantages of free dating apps and sites, there are several reasons to use paid dating platforms.
Nearly all the paid sites let users sign up for free. That way, if you don’t like it, you can move on to the next app. You’re not out any money. It’s a risk-free way to understand the mechanics of each online dating app before you plunk down any money.
Most paid apps also give you the option to pay a monthly subscription or for 3 to 6 months or more at a time. Prepaying can lower the monthly cost by up to 50%.
If you think you might like a particular site or app, sign up for at least three months. Remember, it takes time to get to know someone online before you ever get to that first date.
It also takes time to get your profile set up so its attractive to compatible partners. If you don’t bother to conscientiously fill out a profile and to send thoughtful messages, you’re not going to attract many compatible matches.
A Bigger Pool of Compatible Matches
Paid dating sites tend to attract more serious users who are genuinely looking for meaningful relationships. This leads to higher quality matches.
Users who pay for dating apps are more likely to be committed to the dating process, leading to more meaningful interactions and less time-wasting. If the user has some skin in the game, they’ll take the game more seriously than the free dating site user.
Improved User Experience
Paid sites often offer a better user experience, with advanced search tools and algorithms that can help users find a compatible match and screen out candidates who are not a good fit.
Paid apps typically have better technical support, ensuring help when you need it, and a smoother user experience. Free sites rarely have technical support.
A Larger Dating Pool of Prospective Matches
According to Eli J. Finkel, a Northwestern University psychology professor who conducted studies of dating sites, the biggest benefit of the paid sites and apps is that they expand your prospective dating pool.
A bigger pool was found to be the primary accelerator to speed up the dating process. And the paid versions often give you access to a bigger pool of serious daters than the free ones. Some free sites may claim more total members, but you might find yourself sorting through far more casual members and fake profiles.
A key thing to remember—paying more, in and of itself, is no guarantee that the pool of potential dates is any better than in the free version. Paying more simply gives you access to a wider range of better tools to help you in your search.
Conclusion – Completely Free Dating Sites vs Paid Sites
In the free dating sites vs paid sites argument, remember that with free sites, you are the product, and your experience with the app or site will likely suffer as a result. If you’re dating later in life, you’re probably serious about dating and relationships. The paid dating sites tend to offer up a bigger pool of serious daters.
Remember that selecting an online dating site or app is but one step in the dating process. The first step is understanding your own needs and wants in a partnership and knowing what you have to offer as a partner. The second step is getting online and trying various “freemium” dating apps that offer free versions with paid upgrade. The third step is to upgrade to a paid version on the sites you like. Then use all the available tools to refine your search for a compatible partner.
Let us know in the comments below your preferences in the free dating sites vs. paid sites debate. Which ones worked best for you?