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Best dating sites and apps 2019: Find love online

Best dating apps and websites
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Online dating sites and apps have transformed how we find romantic partners. You can now look at the profiles of hundreds of potential partners before even speaking to one of them. 

With so much choice - there are over 8000 dating sites worldwide - finding the best online dating site that gives you great matches can take time and cost a lot too. 

The good thing is that we’ve been reviewing online dating sites for the past fifteen years, watching them evolve with the times. We've put together a list of the best dating sites and apps for all types of people. Read on to find your perfect dating site match.

Best dating sites apps review break

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We looked at today’s most popular dating websites and apps and rated their matching tools, costs, ease of use, messaging, security and other features to find the best dating site of 2019. On top of this, we also spoke to including dating experts and typical users, to get a clear view of the modern dating landscape and the strengths and weaknesses of each site or app. 

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Best dating sites apps review break

1. Match.com: Best for first timers

Match.com best dating site for first timers

(Image credit: Match.com)

Match.com

If you’re nervous about trying online dating, start out with Match.com

Free access to photos
There is an app and a desktop version
You pay extra for messaging
We only received 11 matches in our tests

Match.com hosts group hangouts so you can get to know a lot of singles without any pressure. This can avoid the awkwardness of a one-on-one with someone you've never met before and is a great ice-breaker.

The Bucket List Event Series even pairs you up based on things you’d like to do before you die so you can make new and exciting memories to further foster a relationship. 

Both the website and app are easy to use and because your matches appear with a compatibility number, you’re more likely to have common interests. Adding something unique to your profile, like your favorite MLB team, is also a fun feature that a lot of other dating websites lack. It might even help heal the rift between Yankees and Mets fans.  

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2. eHarmony: Most thorough

Eharmony most comprehensive dating site

(Image credit: eharmony)

eharmony

If you want a comprehensive online dating experience, sign up for eharmony

The compatibility quiz is extensive
LGBTQ users are directed to a separate website

eharmony is one of the most in-depth and thorough dating sites you can use. Signing up to it is a lot more involved than for other sites and can take 20 minutes or more.

That's not a bad thing, though.

Unlike some other dating apps it's not just about describing your appearance, although you do that too. You can also spell out your religious beliefs and career, as well as a comprehensive survey regarding what you want in a partner. The questions even go as far to ask whether you want to have kids, which is an important thing to agree on if you're looking for a long-term commitment.

That effort is rewarded with more relevant matches and fewer time-wasters. Invest in creating a comprehensive dating profile up-front and you're more likely to find a compatible partner. 

You have to pay for a subscription to access most of the features on eharmony, including reading messages from prospective matches. In our testing the response rate was worth it, however. There is also an eharmony app that's easy to use, making this a great service to try if you like knowing as much as possible about potential partner compatibility.

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3. Elite Singles: Best for academics 

Elite Singles best dating site for smart people

(Image credit: Elite Singles)

Elite Singles

80% of members have a university degree

The site gives you the results of your own personality quiz
You can’t view photos or message users without a subscription
Long setup process

Just like some of the better dating sites around, Elite Singles asks questions not only about how you look physically, but what you’re like as a person. The profile setup survey asks a wide range of questions and took our reviewers about 25 minutes to complete, the longest of any dating service we tested.

You're also quizzed about your potential mate as well, asking you to decide how important it is that your matches have certain personality traits like morality, reliability and risk-taking. You’re also asked to decide whether physical appearance is important. 

Setting up your dating profile is free, but using this service effectively requires a paid subscription. With a free membership you know how many matches you have, but you can’t see their photos – just their profile information. 

Elite Singles is worth trying though if you're over 30 as 90% of its users fall into this category, while 80% of its users have a university degree - ideal if you're looking for a well-educated partner. 

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4. OKCupid: best for millennials 

OKCupid best dating site for young people

(Image credit: OKCupid)

OKCupid

OkCupid is a well-designed and fun matchmaking service

It’s very LGBTQ-friendly
The profile setup questions it asks you are unique
Users can access their profiles online or through an app
A subscription is required to access some of the site’s features
There is no match guarantee
The in-depth setup process took 15 minutes, which might be too lengthy for some people

OKCupid's most important features - messaging and viewing other profiles - are free and the site is LGBTQ-inclusive.

Our findings are in line with 2016 Consumer Reports data that found users were most satisfied with OkCupid over numerous other dating services. With free dating apps becoming more popular thanks to Tinder, people are gravitating toward free online dating apps, and this is one of the best.

Setting up your profile is fun because of the unique questions you’re asked, like what your ideal date would entail and whether you’d prefer to be weird or normal. You also answer these questions from the perspective of your ideal mate to ensure you are paired with compatible people. Along with up to six photos, you can also add more information to your profile about your lifestyle.

In our tests, OkCupid gave us the most matches. On top of that, about half of them were an 80 percent match or higher, meaning they are more likely to be compatible. To eliminate the likelihood of being bombarded with too many messages, you can only see messages from users you’ve “liked,” which is a clever feature. The free mobile app is also well designed and easy to use.

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5. Tinder: best for quick and easy setup

Tinder easiest and best dating app

(Image credit: Tinder.com)

Tinder.com

Get ready to swipe right

It’s widely used and well-known so there are a lot of members
Users aren’t matched based on their personalities

Tinder is most widely known for being an app, but it’s also available online. Tinder lets users swipe on other user profiles: left to pass and right if you’re interested. Tinder's simple and unforgiving approach has made it one of the most popular dating sites available right now and it almost feels like a game while you're doing it.  

All you need is a Facebook account and cell phone number to set up a Tinder account and once you’re on and specify what gender you’re interested in matching with, the app lets you upload up to six photos and write a short paragraph about yourself. You also have the option to link your other social media accounts so people can see what else you get up to. The whole setup process took our reviewers about three minutes and was far less comprehensive than sites like eHarmony, Elite Singles  or Plenty of Fish.

Tinder is location based, with a search radius of up to 100 miles from where you are, so you’re going to be looking at people relatively nearby, with matches only showing up if both parties swipe right on each other. 

Using Tinder is free but you can upgrade to Tinder Plus or Tinder Gold if you want extra features like unlimited re-dos on profiles you’ve passed up and increasing your visibility on the app. Tinder is for brief encounters as well as those looking for their soulmate. The key to successful online dating is being honest about what you want.

6. Plenty of Fish: best free dating app

Plenty of Fish best free dating site app

(Image credit: Plenty of Fish)

Plenty of Fish

Plenty of Fish is a free and easy way to try online dating

Users have free access to profile photos and messaging
Compatibility surveys to flesh out your profile and improve the quality of your matches
It’s available online and through a smartphone app
The website’s design is busy and not very intuitive
It would be very time-consuming to complete every survey
Free and unlimited messaging could be overwhelming for some, particularly women

Plenty of Fish's setup process is thorough and the free mobile app is comparable to others on the market.

Setting up your profile involves a rather in-depth chemistry assessment of more than 70 questions. This means you'll have to think a little bit about your own personality, how others perceive you and what you want in a mate. Questions include whether you consider yourself productive and whether you're seen as stubborn. You answer on a scale, which is nice because it means your answers can be more nuanced than yes or no. There are several other questionnaires available to continue to flesh out your profile, but they're not required.

Messaging and viewing user profiles is all free on Plenty of Fish. While our reviewers don't think the website is very well designed, the free mobile app is also an option that's easy to use. 

The one downside to any service with free messaging is that you could feel overwhelmed if you find yourself with a flooded inbox. On average, the three fake accounts we set up for testing got 40 matches in 24 hours, the second highest of any service we tested. Of those only 22% were "top prospects," which is the site's way of saying those users are highly compatible with you.

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7. Coffee Meets Bagel: Best for women

Coffee Meets Bagel best dating site for women

(Image credit: Coffee Meets Bagel)

Coffee Meets Bagel

Marketed as a ladies choice app, which means women must initiate contact with a match first

Limits your daily matches so you consider profiles more carefully
Names are private until you and another user both like each other
Setup asks you what you like in a mate
There is no web version
You can’t “like” an unlimited number of users in one sitting
Advertised as a women’s choice app, which might be unappealing to some men

Coffee Meets Bagel limits the number of profiles you can view at one time, forcing you to consider the profiles you do see more carefully. It’s also marketed as a ladies choice app, which means women must initiate contact with a match first.

Setting up your profile is fast and only requires a few quick facts about yourself and your appearance. After you write six phrases about yourself and three phrases about what you like in a date, you can start using Coffee Meets Bagel. There is no desktop version of this dating service, though, so you have to have a smartphone, Facebook account and cell phone number to use it. A Facebook account is required because, according to the website, matches are more successful when two people have mutual friends. The app accesses your list of friends to do this but won’t post anything to your page, so there’s no need to worry.

This dating app uses “beans” as currency. You can earn beans by logging in often, by purchasing them or by completing certain tasks like using the app’s Photo Lab. You then use beans to unlock special features in the app and to “like” other user profiles. The service gives male users 21 curated matches every day that they can either like or pass on. The women, in turn, get to see which men have liked them and decide whether to like them back. If they do, the matched pair can then chat for free.

In our tests, the maximum number of profiles we could like before running out of beans was five a day, which we would think keeps most people from being flippant about their matches. In our tests, our accounts got an average of three matches, which was rather low compared to other services we tried. The messaging feature also has a seven-day time limit for conversation between two people, which forces you to decide whether you want to take action on that potential love connection.

Best dating sites apps review break

Read also:

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If you’re looking for a long-term, meaningful connection, eHarmony is one of the best dating services available. To get the most out of it, you’ll need a subscription – but you can get 15% off now with this code. And if you’re not satisfied with your matches in three months, eHarmony will give you an extra three months free. Bargain.View Deal

Dating apps: the best of the rest 

We also tested and reviewed the following services, but they didn't make the cut for our list of best online dating sites:

Bumble: Available only as an app, Bumble shows you basic information about potential matches. Once two people have shown interest in each other, you have one day to start chatting or the match expires. Similar to Tinder, this free app is easy to use.

Zoosk: Zoosk verifies each user’s identity, which helps eliminate scammers and fake accounts. Available in a desktop version or app, the website pairs you up with matches based on a survey you take when you sign up.

Chemistry: This dating website asks users unique questions during the sign-up process, but we didn't get very many matches during out tests. It lacks an app, and you also can't send any messages unless you pay for a subscription.

Specialized dating sites

We tested online dating websites and apps aimed at broad audiences, but there are many options for tailored dating experiences. 

If you’re looking for something specific in a mate, odds are there's a dating website or app just for that. For example, the Color Dating app allows users to focus on a specific ethnicity. Christian Mingle caters to singles of the Christian faith. 

Silver Singles is a paid service for people entering their golden years who are looking for a relationship. 

There are also websites for people with certain medical needs. SpectrumSingles.com is geared toward people on the autism spectrum, while Dating4Disabled is an option for people with disabilities. 

There are also options for people living alcohol-free lives, like Single and Sober. It's similar to OKCupid, but its users don't drink. In short, there are plenty of online dating options, no matter what you’re looking for in life.

The League
If you're willing to pay for it, The League is a dating app that does all the work for you. You’ll need active Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to log in, and you'll be assessed based on the information you've provided on these profiles, like your education and professional career. On top of that, you have to fill out an application and then are placed on a waiting list for an undetermined period of time that varies by the city you live in. Once you’re a member, you’ll have access to a personal concierge who does a lot of the work for you and helps curate your profile.

Part of what draws some people to The League is the ability be extremely picky about the kind of people you want to match with. You can filter not only by age and location, but also by race or even education. Then every day at 5 p.m. you'll get to see five matches and decide whether to like them or not. Each user profile displays photos, location, height, age, education, career and hobbies. If both users like each other, you can strike up a conversation on the app's messaging feature. If you want more than your allotted five matches, you'll need to upgrade your membership, which costs more. The League also hosts events and group hangouts for users who feel more comfortable meeting people that way.

The downside to this app is it's built-in elitism. It's meant to feel exclusive, and the language used in the marketing materials isn't exactly warm and fuzzy. For example, one of the website's taglines is, "We do the scouting and the vetting, you do the matching and the petting." Still, if an exclusive and upscale dating app experience is what you’re looking for, The League could be for you.

Raya
There's even a specialized app for creative people looking to meet other artists and creators. Raya is free to download but then becomes membership-based. First, you fill out an application, which is then reviewed by a committee of people and an algorithm. You may be put on a waitlist for a short time while your application is reviewed. Once you're accepted, you need to sign up for a one-, three- or six-month auto-renewing membership plan. As a member, you also have to agree to a code of conduct in an effort to keep interactions respectful and cordial. As the website puts it, it believes using technology to meet someone should feel safe and exciting. Because of its exclusivity, the app has become well-known for its famous users. We weren't able to get a membership, but several blogs and reviews circulating online claim the app has been used by the likes of Cara Delevingne, Ruby Rose and Demi Lovato.

Once you’re a member, you can look through other user photos and see a person's name, age, location and Instagram handle. User photos are set to a song of their choice, which shows a little more personality than most other dating apps. You can also browse the app's map and see which users are closest to you. It has a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars in the Apple Store and is relatively easy to use if you can get your foot in the door.

LGBTQ+
One new dating scene app caters specifically to queer women. HER, available for free in both the Apple App Store and Google Play, serves as a place where female-identified and non-binary people can connect to find both friends and dates. You can sign up using your Facebook or Instagram account and swipe through profiles to find people in your area. The app is also a place to coordinate and find queer events like parties and meetups. User profiles show you photos, names, a person's sexual preference and physical attributes. Much like Tinder, once you match with a person, you can chat in the app's messaging component.

There's also a user feed feature in the app that's similar to Facebook. Along with a dating profile, users post information about their day-to-day lives, likes and dislikes. One of the app's most unique features is its "relationship mode," which you can turn on to let other users know you're only looking for friendship, not a date. Take note, though: The app's 3.9 out of 5 star App Store rating (as of December 2018) is far from perfect. As such, the app might not be for everyone. It also has a 2.5 star rating in Google Play, with users noting glitches in the interface. In addition, you have to pay for some features, and some people didn't like that they only found that out after downloading the app. That aside, HER is a safe online community for queer woman to connect.

Now
If you’re tired of the back and forth of trying to schedule a date that works with your busy schedule, check out Now, an app built specifically to make that easier. Available in the Apple App Store and Google Play, it matches you with people based on your schedules. This probably isn't the best app for finding a meaningful connection, as it's based solely on you having free time simultaneously with another user, but it's a good way to schedule a lot of dates and have a lot of fun. 

The app is free and works based on your location, so you can use it to find dates while you're traveling. You need a Facebook profile to link to your dating profile, and the apps asks you to outline your intentions and hobbies in its dashboard. That’s also where you select an activity and a time frame and see if any other users are interested in meeting up with you for the date.

Now has a messaging feature, but chats are only visible for two hours if you and another user stop talking. You get four free access keys when you sign up, which increase your chances of meeting new people. If you want more, they're available for purchase. When you buy a Gold Key, you get unlimited access to all of the app's premium features for 60 hours.

Happn
Have you ever crossed paths with a stranger and felt an immediate connection? Have you always regretted not introducing yourself to that cute guy in the elevator or that really funny waitress? Happn is a dating app that gives you a second chance with missed connections. Every time you cross paths with another person who has the app on their phone, you'll be able to view their dating profile. You can also see how many times you've crossed paths with a person and if you don't want to match with them, you can simply remove that profile from your timeline. If you've found someone you'd like to get to know more you can like them with the app's heart button, and if the feeling is mutual, you'll be able to message back and forth.

The app is free and there is no desktop version. You can purchase credits separately in the app or pay monthly for the premium version, which lacks any ads and lets you see who has liked you, among other features. It has 4.2 out of 5 stars in the Apple app store, and some user reviews note the app can be very confusing in busy urban areas, like New York City. We're guessing it's also not very effective in less populated rural areas, as it relies on a lot of people having the app on their phone. You can also play the app's built-in game CrushTime, which lets you guess who has liked you from four profiles you've recently crossed paths with.

Be a Wingman
The dating app Wingman takes matchmaking into the 21st century. With this app, you can create a dating profile for your friend and tell the world how amazing they are. Along with selecting the most flattering photos of your friend, you get to write their bio. It can be hard to self-promote and this app eliminates that problem. Once you set up a profile, the app is pretty similar to Tinder; you simply swipe through user profiles to find folks you think might be compatible with your friend. Like the profile you created, those you flip through are monitored and used by the friends of the person actually going on the date. If they think it’s a match that might work, you can facilitate a conversation or a meet-up.

With Wingman, there’s no need for any more embarrassing blind dates. This also means if things don’t go well at first, your friend never has to know about their online dating fail and can simply look for more fish in the sea. The app is free to download, and you need to verify yourself as a wingman to get your friend set up. It went live in 2017 and is currently available for both Android and iOS. However, there isn't a desktop version.

Badoo
Owned by the same company as Bumble, you’re likely to find a date among Badoo’s more than 400 million users. It is a little different than the dating apps we reviewed. Instead of uploading your own information, you select a photo of a celebrity or famous person. The app then shows you other users who look similar. Your pool of potential dates will probably be smaller because of this, but you'll definitely find them attractive. You then scroll through those user profiles and decide whether to "like" them or pass. You can see each user's age, interests and several photos. If a user you've liked likes you back, you can then message each other and decide whether you want to meet up. More than 350 million messages are sent via the app every day, and there are 300,000 new daily signups, making it incredibly popular.

If you're looking for a deeper connection, this app probably isn't for you, as it's based purely on physical traits. This means you might not really connect with a person despite liking how they look. On the other hand, it could be a lot of fun going out for dinner with someone who looks like the celebrity you've always had a crush on.

Clover
Clover is a little bit like Tinder and a little bit like OKCupid. You can login with your Facebook and then add more information about your appearance and reason for using the app. For example, you can choose from several “intentions” including “looking for dating” or “looking for people to chat with.” Clover uses your location to find you dates in the area, so like most location-based dating apps, it won’t work well if you live in a rural area with a small population. Once you’ve logged in you’re prompted to start a free 7-day trial or sign up for either 3 months or 1 year of service. With a paid membership you can see read receipts on your messages, share photos and videos and get access to advanced filters for your potential matches like income and ethnicity. You can also opt out and just use the free membership if you’d prefer.

This app lets you scroll through potential matches for as long as you’d like. It displays a person's photo, age, name, physical attributes and intention right up front, but lacks any kind of personalization or biography. You’ve got to show your personality through photos alone. There are also mixers within the app that divide users up by their interests and intentions, like healthy lifestyles, serious relationships only or even “cute pets.” Once you join a mixer you can scroll through message boards and see what other users are talking about or trade information to keep chatting.

The layout of the site is fun and colorful with a focus on photos. Overall it’s a bit complicated to use, but generally not bad once you get the hang of it. It allows you to find a match based on common interests and doesn’t limit the number of swipes you get, making it a great free dating app.

Sugar Babies
We couldn’t give you an extensive guide to online dating without mentioning Sugar Babies. This term is slang – usually for younger women who use online dating services to match with older, wealthier men who provide them with financial support in some way. This has become an increasingly popular way for young people to help ease the burden of student loan debt.

For instance, the date for pay website SeekingArrangement released a report in March 2019 that found that there are more than 2.7 million students in the United States who have used the website to help pay for college. Broken down by college, Georgia State University is the fastest growing sugar baby school. With websites like SeekingArrangement, users are on the same page in terms of what each party is seeking: one is there for companionship and the ability to help take care of someone while the other is there for companionship as well as financial stability.

SeekingArrangement is skewed toward young women seeking older men, though there are other websites and apps available as well. While the name of WhatsYourPrice might seem a little too on the nose, it has options available for both men and women to bid on potential dates. Happy Matches has a plethora of options for women seeking to financially support someone, as does Sugar Elite. However, it does cost money to use many of these services.

Refrigerdating
No, we’re not kidding. You know those fancy new fridges that pair with a smartphone app to show you the contents of your fridge while you’re away from home? Now there’s a dating app that goes along with that, allowing you to find a mate based upon the contents of their fridge. Samsung's $3,000 Family Hub refrigerator now has a dating app, Refrigerdating, where you can browse user profiles with information not only about their personalities, but their fridges. The New York Times reported that's how creator John Stonehill met his wife of nine years; he perused the contents of her fridge the first chance he got. He helped develop the app for Samsung, which launched in early 2019.

While this is the only app of its kind we know if right now, we can only assume other high tech fridges will be coming out with their own versions soon. Samsung's website details the many ways in which the kinds of food you have speak volumes about your personality. A fridge full of protein shakes and fruits, for example, speaks to a healthy lifestyle. Someone with a lot of dairy products and containers full of sweets might really enjoy baking. These are aspects of a person’s life important when it comes to finding a long term partner, but we have to admit, it might be a little weird looking through fridges. Let us know how it goes.

Dating sites by religion
There are a lot of dating websites and apps out there that offer services to members of a specific religion. Whether you consider yourself a devout follower of a certain church or just feel spiritual, there’s a dating app out there where you can find like-minded people.

Mutual is a free dating app for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You set up a profile, and then the app works similarly to Tinder. If two people express an interest in each other while swiping through user profiles, they're matched and able to start chatting. There's even a "double take" feature where you can get a second chance to swipe right on a profile if you accidentally skip it while scrolling. Facebook is required in order for you to use the app. This is to help eliminate the presence of fake profiles or bots.

FirstMet, formerly known as AYI, is a place for Baptist singles to meet and mingle. You can use filters to find the kind of person you're interested in through the website or free app. The website claims it has connected over 25 million singles.

JSwipe is a Jewish dating app. You upload photos of yourself and scroll through other user profiles in the hopes of matching. This app is unique in that your matches expire in 18 days, so you've got to start chatting and schedule a date quickly. Everything is free to use but you can pay extra for "super swipes" to show a person you're extremely interested in them. This is a location-based app, so it's likely to work best in large cities.

There is also JWMatch for Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholic Singles for Catholics and Helahel, a Muslim dating website for those looking for marriage.

How we found the best dating sites and dating apps

We spent more than a week testing more than a dozen popular dating apps and sites to figure out which are the most effective, affordable and ultimately the overall best dating apps. That meant monitoring three made-up profiles for 24 hours, collecting match data and using the every feature a dating website or app comes with. We looked at which websites give free access to other users’ profile photos and messaging, and whether you have to pay to access extra features. For on-the-go dating, we also used their apps and evaluated them based on how user-friendly they are.

In a world where everybody and their mother seems to be on free dating apps like Tinder, we especially looked for services that have both desktop and mobile platforms. We also prefer ones that cater to a wide audience and give users the most features for free.

We created three made-up online dating profiles and monitored the responses our profiles received. 

We created a woman seeking a man, a man seeking a woman and a woman seeking a woman to make sure our data was well-rounded. All three profiles were similarly generic: They were white with bachelor’s degrees with low to midrange full-time jobs. To create these accounts we had to make email accounts and, for some sites, fake Facebook accounts and phone numbers as well.

For our fake dating profiles, we counted how many matches and messages we received in 24 hours. We also noted whether you could block or report inappropriate behavior, how long the profile setup process was, how in-depth setup questions were, and whether we encountered any obvious bots. For sites that require you to “like” users to get matches, we did so to the first 30 accounts we came across.

And don’t worry; on sites that let us send and receive messages for free, we made sure to tell anyone who reached out that the accounts were created for the purpose of a review and would soon be deleted.

How much do the best dating sites cost?

A lot of dating websites and apps advertise the fact that they’re free, but be careful what you’re signing up for. Setting up a profile is always free, but most of the websites we tested offered only some of their matching services free of charge. Many dating websites make you pay to view user photos and send messages. Dating apps, on the other hand, are predominantly free. Upgrades are available if you want to use the app’s extra features, but for the most part a free account is all you need.

Even free dating websites and apps give you the option to sign up for a premium option, which does in fact cost you. 

If you want access to the best dating sites, you’re going to have to pay for it. Premium options cost about $10 each month for basic service, or if you want more effective pairing with people you’re more likely to get along with for an average of $40 per month. You could also pay less if you purchase a membership for several months at a time.

What the experts say about dating sites

Julie Spira, a Los Angeles-based author, online dating expert and CEO of Cyber Dating Experts, said honesty is the key to online dating success. This is becoming easier and easier with social media.

“These days because people are connecting their Instagram accounts to their mobile dating app we have an opportunity to see what someone looks like in real life and whether those photos match the profile,” she said.

With more than 20 years of experience in the field of online dating, Spira said mobile dating apps like Tinder and Bumble have made online dating a generational occurrence.

“It’s not unusual for someone to say their little sister or child is on a dating site and their mother or grandmother are on dating sites,” she said.

Even though dating apps can seem commonplace, 26-year-old Abby Einrem met her fiancé David on Plenty of Fish in 2015 but doesn’t like telling people that because online dating seems “desperate.”

“Plenty of Fish was gross because all the guys on there weren’t attractive,” she said. “I feel like attractive guys use Tinder because it’s easy. It links to your Facebook. Plenty of Fish requires more effort and if you’re going through that much effort it’s because you’re desperate.”

But according to a fact sheet provided by the public relations team at Match.com, the internet was the No. 1 place where singles met their last first date in 2017, bucking any assumption that most people are just looking for hookups online. Only 14 percent of singles met their mate through friends, and 6 percent met them at a bar.

Sharon Kroll and fiancé Lee Wallender are the Seattle-based writers and dating experts behind The Dating Gurus. Kroll said it’s easy to get lost in the sea of possibilities when online dating so it’s important to limit the number of sites you’re onto to three and make sure you’re not spending all day checking them. It’s also important to make the first message you send count.

“Whether you’re a guy or a girl you have to actually read the person’s profile or little blurb and do your homework,” she said. “Search for clues about the person’s occupation or interests and be prepared in the first contact to initiate a conversation about those specifics.”

Online dating success tips

Even though it might feel like online dating is mostly about luck, academics have been studying it for some time now. In fact, the longer online dating continues to evolve the more information there is to look at. 

Of the romantic partnerships formed in the United States between 2007 and 2009, 21 percent of heterosexual couples and 61 percent of same-sex couples met online, according to a study by Stanford sociology professor Michael J. Rosenfeld and reported by the New York Times. 

While this might make you feel like your online dating habits are on display, the fact that they’re being studied can actually be really helpful. For example, one 2018 study from the University of Michigan found the best way to start a  successful conversation is to simply say "hey." That same study found both men and women tend to aim high in online dating, messaging matches who were on average 25 percent more attractive than they were.

If you feel like most of the people you match with don't end of looking like they do in their profile, there's science to back that up. A study of 80 online daters found two thirds of users lied about their weight by 5 pounds or more with no correlation to whether the user was male or female. Having this knowledge in your back pocket can be useful while scrolling through Tinder or eHarmony and result in more matches and long term connections.

Also, according to the Pew Research Center, public perception of online dating has become more and more positive. That being said, research is showing a lot of people use online dating as a form of entertainment and never actually intend to go on a date. The same Pew Research study found one-third of people who have used online dating services have never actually gone on a date. In short, don't be too disappointed if you find yourself striking out. It might be that there aren't a lot of people in your area looking for a meaningful connection.

If the thought of signing up for an online dating service without any help is scary then read our online dating tips.

Spam & bots

The downside of online dating is the lack of face-to-face interaction, at least when you first start chatting with someone. This leaves users vulnerable to chat bots, or computer programs made to trick real users into thinking they’re interacting with a real person. These programs often attempt to steal credit card or other personal information from real people.

One sign you may be chatting with a bot is that they continually urge you to buy goods and services. Bots are computer programs, which means you should also keep an eye out for odd responses or unnatural wording. While people slip up with the occasional typo, bots often phrase things strangely. Regardless of whether you think the person you’re talking to is real, never give out your credit card information; it’s not worth having your identity or money stolen.

If you’re not sure whether you're chatting with a bot, try being sarcastic; bots don’t pick up on that kind of humor. Finally, if you think you may be chatting with a bot, ask to meet in person. If they continually cite reasons why they can’t meet you, there’s a good chance that you're not talking to a real person.

Check out our article on online dating scams for more.