eHarmony is where relationship-oriented daters love to go, as the site is responsible for 4% of U.S. marriages. Co-founded by clinical psychologist Dr. Neil Clark Warren, eHarmony is probably most known for their exclusive 29 Dimensions® of Compatibility test — which is composed of four categories: Character and Constitution; Personality; Emotional Makeup and Skills; and Family and Values. For no cost, you can fill out your information, take the questionnaire, and receive like-minded matches.
It’s important to be upfront about what you’re looking for online. If you’re interested in something casual, free sites that require less information to sign up could work perfectly. It’s probably not worth paying for a membership if you’re not looking for anything long term and are willing to risk going on a couple of potentially bad dates. If marriage is what you’re after, then you might have better luck on paid sites that pair you with people who have the same priorities.
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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. 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.
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.
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Plenty of Fish (or POF) tries to combine the ease-of-use of a simpler matching service with some of the brains of a more robust, comprehensive dating site. It matches based on mutual likes, but the more information you add to your profile, the more intelligently it'll try to match you. It has a speed matching feature, called MeetMe, which will present you with singles in your area that match your interests quickly, so you can cut through the fluff and contact someone about a date. Alternatively, you can browse matches by interest or by people who live nearby. At the same time though, it retains some of the simplicity of other services—if two people like each other's profiles, you'll get a notification to connect right away. How much effort you put into finding a good match—whether you go by mutual likes and location only or you fill out your profile with tons of information—is entirely up to you. Oh, POF is also free, and offers mobile apps, just like the other services.
OkCupid.com creates a unique online dating site environment by putting heavy emphasis on member participation. Matches are identified by your profile and your responses to a series of questions generated by other users. Each match question is made up of four parts: the question, the answers you’re willing to accept from your matches, a rating of how important the answer is to you, and an optional explanation of your response. The more questions you answer, the smarter OkCupid gets at recommending matches for you. It is free to use; paid options are available that include additional site features. While OkCupid is a free online dating site, users can pay (starting at $4.95 a month) to filter out people who are unattractive or overweight. An unusual, possibly controversial feature.
Since our last round of testing, the dating app Hinge has gained lots of popularity. Founded in 2012, it's similar to Tinder but emphasizes matching you with people you share Facebook friends with. Once you’re out of Facebook connections, you start seeing potential matches you have fewer friends in common with. You're able to see each user's job, educational background, physical traits and a short biography. Scroll through users and select the ones you'd like to get to know better. If that user likes you back, you're connected via the app's messaging platform.
How does it work? This online dating site does exactly what it says on the tin and only people deemed beautiful enough will be allowed to join. To become a member, applicants are required to be voted in by existing members of the opposite sex. Members rate new applicants over a 48-hour period based on whether or not they find the applicant ‘beautiful’. It sounds harsh, but the site claims that by admitting people based on their looks they’re removing the first hurdle of dating, saying that because everyone on the site is a fitty, members can concentrate on getting to know people’s character and personalities. Beautiful People also promises access to exclusive parties and top guest lists around the globe. Now for that brutal 48-hour wait…
How it works: To be honest, there aren't that many places where people who are more introspective can congregate in the outside world. That kind of goes against the idea of being shy. Sure there are clubs and parities, but if you're really shy it's nearly impossible to meet anyone there. This website is the solution. The website's matching system uses your preferences, location, and interests to match you with others. It even offers expert tips to help you overcome your shyness.
As you'd expect from any online dating option with that kind of lofty goal, Elite Singles gives you more than just a Facebook photo to base your opinion on. The site collects information about users' professions and appearances, so if you sign up, you get a chance to be as careful and thoughtful with your love life as you are when you're on the job.
Now that you've perused the dating pool and have your eyes on that special someone, it's time to bite the bullet and actually reach out to him or her. Each app offers different ways of showing your interest, but in most instances, this is when you have to open your wallet. Match will let you Wink at a fellow member for free, and Plenty of Fish doesn't charge for messaging, but in almost all other instances you're going to get charged for the reach-out. If you're not ready to express your feelings in words, Bumble lets you send Bumble Coins to prospective matches, for $2 a pop. Zoosk offers the slightly creepy option of giving Coins to other users to express your interest (for an additional fee, of course).
eHarmony was one of the pioneers in the online dating space, and -- while I haven't personally used this one -- we all remember the pitch, thanks to years of TV commercials: The service matches couples based on "29 dimensions" of compatibility (as determined by a thorough relationship questionnaire). While you can review the profiles of your prospective matches for free, you'll need to pay to unlock the full features of the service. But that comes with a guarantee: If, after three months of paid membership and communicating with at least five members, you're not satisfied, eHarmony will refund your money. Despite a rocky road that eventually involved a high-profile lawsuit, the site finally added same-sex dating in 2013, too. I have mixed feelings about using the site myself, but the site is at least technically more inclusive now.
Hinge focuses on common connections that you and a potential partner share on Facebook. Which is great if you trust the judgment of your friends and family. Of course, some of us are trying to meet new people, far removed from our everyday lives. (Hinge may have come to understand that, since you no longer need Facebook to sign up.) The app also asks questions to help you match with better connections, which can be a plus for serious relationship seekers.