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Many singles who experiment with online dating, via desktop or mobile app, start off on free online dating sites. Free sites give you a chance to experience all that online dating has to offer and allows you to see how you 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 a decade ago and your options for online dating were much, much slimmer. Online dating sites that were free back then were often either highly sketchy, putting your identity and privacy at risk, or simply did not have the membership numbers to give you a worthwhile online dating experience. Today, apps and sites from AdultFriendFinder to Zoosk have changed the game thanks to massive databases of loyal, active users providing plenty of fish in the sea to choose from.
Of course, paid 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 — or casual hookups, as the case may be — a little more seriously. 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.
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 is the amount of options. 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.
The Best Free Dating Sites
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 discover 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.
Check out Coffee Meets Bagel
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 hand-fed 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 flings or for more serious, long-term relationships.
Check out OKCupid
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, no-strings-attached meetings, 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.
Check out Plenty Of Fish
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 vicinity, which makes it quick and easy to find someone and meet up that very same night.
Check out Tinder
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 flings, 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 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 meet up for a night of passion without leaving a digital footprint.
Check out Pure
Are Paid Dating Sites Better?
While free dating sites can be tempting, they don't always provide the best value for your time. Free sites are often simply not designed to work as well as paid dating sites and furthermore are less regulated. This means you end up with more scammers on the site, since most don't require any sort of formal validation of your profile, as well as bots and other less than realistic features. Worse yet, if you're on a free dating site you're more likely to find yourself victim to catfishing than on paid sites, meaning your time on these sites can easily be wasted. Fake profiles are just a fact of life on free dating sites, as well as an increased number of individuals on the sites that are only there to cause harm. This means you end up having to be extra cautious of those you meet and extra careful about your identify and safety. As an alternative, there are paid dating sites that are well worth the extra expense per month to ensure you get the most out of your online dating experience.
Zoosk attracts a massive amount of online daters and for good reason: the site has a clear-cut easy to master layout and a unique matching algorithm that simply works. The site is aesthetically pleasing, meaning it's actual enjoyable to be on whether on the desktop or app version, and it looks brand new, even though it was launched nearly a decade ago. It has a simple and easy signup process that gets you online and interacting with others after just a 3-step registration process.
The site has profile verification options to ensure you are matching with ‘real' others, The site has a Smart Match system that essentially allows the site to learn your preferences better and the option to send a Mega Flirt that reaches dozens of inboxes every 15 minutes. It's a site you won't easily grow bored of and with a unique insights feature allows you to become a better dater overall.
Check out Zoosk
Year after year remaining an industry leader in online dating Match has just the right balance of features and members to keep making love connections happen. Although it's easy to assume match is only for serious daters, it's actually an online dating site for anyone looking for anything from marriage to one-night stands. The site has a continually evolving matching algorithm that simply helps you find those you are interested in, even if you yourself are a little unsure of who exactly that is.
The site has an extensive amount of search options and ways to discover others, including a hot or not like game and it's newly launched geo-location feature so you can see others who have crossed your path. Match is such a household name and has created so many successful encounters, it's really not taboo to be on the site anymore and is often the next practical step for those looking to explore their paid dating options.
Check out Match.com
If hookups are what you're looking for but you're sick of dealing with unreliable people and free hookup apps, FriendFinder-X is your best bet in the world of casual online dating. The self-proclaimed dating site claims to be the world's largest site for casual dating and is filled with an abundance of features that give you plenty of options in everything from the way you discover others and interact, to the way you design your profile. The site has a rating system incorporated into many aspects that ranks members but hotness, which provides some insight into what the purpose of the site is.
You can rest assured that everyone on the site is there for the same reasons, which is something free dating sites don't always provide. There's even a What's Hot, Live Action, and recently added Connexionâ (life-like video cyber sex feature) if you're looking to simply get turned on. The site has built in broadcast options to make cyber sex even easier, and the unique ability to search members by their sexual interests.
Check out FriendFinder-X