Digital dating is certainly an established industry these days and the good part about when a concept becomes mainstream is that free versions of it come out that rival their original, paid counterparts. Free online dating isn’t an end of the road option either. Rather, it’s a valid path to take as you venture into your online dating journey for the first, second, or hundredth time.
In fact, many singles who experiment with online dating, via desktop or mobile app, start off on free dating sites. Free sites give you a chance to experience all that online dating has to offer and allows you to see how your skills stack up in the digital dating world, which, yes, is different from the in-person meeting route.
Digital dating has come a long way in a short period of time and the presence of legitimate, useful free dating sites and apps just further proves this point. Look back just 20 years ago and your options for online dating we’re slim to none. Match.com was launched in 1995 but beyond that there weren’t that many other regulated, sensible online dating options. Online dating sites that were free back then were either highly insecure, putting your identity and privacy at risk, or simply did not have the membership numbers to give you a worthwhile online dating experience. Thus to find others beyond your social circle and without going the in-person route usually meant paying for a slot in the back of the newspaper personals section.
Now apps from OKCupid to Tinder have changed the game and ironically made dating, or at least the process of meeting others you would otherwise never encounter, incredibly more affordable, if not completely free. These free online dating sites also have massive databases of loyal, active users providing plenty of fish in the sea to choose from.
Of course paid online dating sites and apps usually do provide something a little extra to justify the price tag. Many have more advanced matching algorithms along with other bells and whistles, and because you must pay to use them, they tend to attract those who take online dating a little more seriously. But that’s not to say that all free dating platforms are for casual hookups only. It’s actually the opposite. Research tells us that 6% of people who marry after meeting online break up, compared to 7.6% of people who found their spouse offline, which is some interesting food for thought for those who have any online dating doubts.
Additionally, many free sites have matching systems that work perfectly well, if not better in some cases, than their paid competitors, and each one tends to have its own unique aspect to it that makes it stand out from the crowd. Take Coffee Meets Bagel for example, which is a free dating app that initially matches you based on mutual friends, giving you something to talk about off the bat, and attracts those looking for relationships ranging from friendships to long-term and everything in between. Or hop on over to Plenty of Fish, another heavily populated, free dating site and app that provides various personality quizzes to help you learn more about yourself as an online dater and improve your overall chances of online dating success.
All in all, when you look at what’s available these days in terms of free online dating, the message is pretty clear: Finding others through digital means doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, or anything for that matter, meaning you can save your hard earned cash for the dates you actually go on. If online dating is something you're considering, or reconsidering once again, you really have nothing to lose by trying out a free dating site.
The only real challenge you do have when you approach free online dating is that the amount of options you have can be mind-numbing. There’s an estimated 5,000 online dating platforms available, so picking the right one for your needs can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. On the flip side, this means there’s definitely one out there that meets your particular needs, be it to find a one night stand in the next hour or potential partner for life. Instead of downloading 20-plus apps and filling out profile after profile, get a leg up on your fellow online daters by browsing through this list of the best free online dating sites available right now.
Coffee Meets Bagel
Here’s a dating app that tends to fly under the radar amidst the ever-growing list of new, radical dating platforms, but once users discovers it they tend to get hooked. This surprisingly free app takes a unique approach to online dating by taking bits and pieces from some of the best online dating sites and combining them all under one umbrella.
The free dating app does an unprecedentedly good job at collecting feedback and uses it to help you increase your rate of success on the site. Members are given a report card-like dashboard that shows them why users liked or passed on their profile, down to the specific reason, such as not good (as in good quality) enough profile pictures, as well as offering ways to improve their likelihood of getting “liked.” For any online dater, this dashboard alone is a good (and free) tool to use to gauge how your profile is performing compared to others and constantly find ways to improve it.
As is only appropriate with the name, coffee beans are the currency of Coffee Meets Bagel and you earn them through daily logins and other activities. The site is very reward-driven, giving you a limited number of matches each day, based first on the mutual friends you share on Facebook, with the number of matches increasing each consecutive day you log on. With the extra beans you accumulate you can show interest in another group of potential matches who aren’t necessarily your handpicked matches of the day, but who you may share common interests. The concept of matching based on mutual friends isn’t new, but because of how the dating platform is designed it simply works well — as in, without being creepy.
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If you like the idea of matching based on your social profiles, and want to take it to the next level, the next logical step is try to the extremely socially-driven dating site Zoosk.
Try Zoosk for $29.95 for 1 month
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OKCupid has become a dating site singles flock to for their first online dating trial run, and one they return to throughout their entire online dating journey. The site hasn’t changed much in years but rather banks on what it does have to offer that seems to continually attract and re-attract members. The site features an easy-to-navigate interface, insightful but not obnoxiously long profiles, and a handful of question you can answer to help the site match you better.
You discover potential matches based on searching, rather than being handfed match suggestions, which gives more control over your online dating experience. For each match you see, you also see the percentage match rate you have with that individual, giving you not just another conversation starter, but an actual data-driven indication (based on the profile questions you answered) of how well you and someone you find in your search results may match. The has a fun, laid back feel to it and users generally adopt a similar attitude when interacting on the site, making it a legitimate choice for those looking for casual hookups or for more serious, long-term relationships.
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If you like the freedom and flexibility OKCupid offers you can enjoy these perks along with dozens of other thoughtfully designed features by trying Match.com.
Try Match for $24.99 for one month
Read our full Match review
Plenty Of Fish
One of the easiest and most affordable ways to dive right into online dating is through the free dating site and app Plenty of Fish. The platform provides a feature-packed online dating experience that doesn’t cost you a dime. There’s an abundance of members from all different walks of life, most of whom are continually active on the site. The numbers speak for themselves, as the site attracts roughly 4 million log-ins daily, and over 65,000 new users signing up each day. The dating site is designed for finding others for long-term relationships as well as arranging casual hookups, although it skews more towards the latter option.
The site operates based on search, rather than any fancy, undisclosed matching algorithm. This means you can search the entire member database and the number of members you can see in a week, day, or hour is never limited. Profiles have various areas to express your personality, and can be made as detailed or brief as you want. There are also useful questionnaires that give you insight into your own personality traits and compatibility skills, which can help your online dating game regardless of the site you end up using the most. The site incorporates seven ways to discover others, the most useful of which is with standard or advanced searches (done by who’s online, by city, by new users, by contacts, and by favorites). Finally, there’s a handy alert section at the top notifying you of any relevant activity, ensuring you never miss a chance for interaction.
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Looking for another site with a huge dating pool that also helps you learn more about yourself as an online dater? Check out eHarmony to get an in-depth look at your dating personality, along with access to its specialized matching system.
Try eHarmony for $40.90 per month
Read our full eHarmony review
You can thank Tinder for the increased flexibility of your thumb muscle along with the cultural-wide phenomenon of swiping to meet others. The casual hookup app is excessively straightforward and easy to use. In fact, it’s so simplistic there are really only a few things you can do on it, including updating your profile, swiping left (to pass) or right (to like), and chatting with matches. As is only fitting for a swipe-based dating app, profiles are minimal, focusing mainly on profile pictures with a brief area for text, but they do allow you to connect social accounts if desired.
There’s really only one path to finding others on the site: swipe, message, and go from there. The main section of the site, the swiping section, allows you to swipe yay or nay on profiles extremely quickly, with most users only looking at the main profile picture before swiping one way or the other. There are some more advanced paid features that let you “boost” your swipe, such as super-liking a member, or reverse your swipe option and go back to a user you passed on. Communication can only take place once both members like each other, at which time either match may initiate a conversation. In true hookup app fashion, you’re shown pictures of those in your vacinity, which makes it quick and easy to find someone and meet up that very same night.
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Alternatively, you can find casual hookups quickly and easily with this paid site designed for casual encounters, iHookup. Being that it’s a paid site, users tend to take the process of finding someone to hook up with a little more seriously, meaning you’re less likely to be left hanging after a conversation or ghosted for no reason.
Try iHookup for $39.99 for 1 month
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If you’re strictly looking for a hookup app, it’s always best to prioritize your privacy, and Pure does just that. The free app, designed to facilitate casual hookups, erases your profile every hour — although you can easily restore it. The app is basically a geo-location-based online personals app that allows you to list yourself to other local singles for 60-minute periods and see who you match up with. If you mutually match, you can strike up a quick chat with the matching user but be sure to exchange contact information quickly, as after your hour is up you’ll lose contact on the app with that user. After one hour, your profile “self-destructs,” erasing any traces of your short online personal listing so there are no traces back to you.
The 1-hour maximum self-destructing profiles and quick chats greatly encourage on-the-spot sexual encounters. Unlike other hookup and even mainstream dating platforms that backhandedly want users to stay single so they continue to use, and in some cases pay for, the site, Pure does not encourage users to stay in the digital realm any longer than required. Plus you get the bonuses of extreme anonymity and above average data security so you can easily hook up without leaving a digital footprint.
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If casual sex is truly your end-game but you don’t want to relaunch your profile every 60 minutes, consider a paid casual hookup site like XMatch.com, which has over 75,000,000 members and matches you with other compatible sexual partners.
Try XMatch for $20.00 for 1 month
Read our full XMatch review