Want to give online dating a go? We compare the top dating websites and apps and look at the different features, costs and more so you can find the right one for you.
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Cheap dating apps and websites
With Valentine's Day around the corner, there are already plenty of shopfronts and TV adverts serving as reminders that time is ticking to find somebody to share it with.
It's estimated that one in three relationships now start online, so matchmaking websites and apps are booming as a result.
But which one should you go for? We have a look at the best free apps and websites, the ones that you have to pay for, and some niche ones that cater for more specialist interests...
Best hookup apps and dating sites to find casual sex with no strings attached Expand your options past someone at the bar — or your ex. By Leah Stodart and Miller Kern on July 7, 2021. Getting dating apps free of charge is the dream for budget conscious singles seeking sex and romance, and that is actually more achievable than ever in today’s dating scene. Men and women can go online, download an app, and get instant access to local date prospects.
Free apps and websites
These sites and apps offer most of their features free of charge, meaning that you don't have to spend a penny to get the most out of them.
All of them also offer some kind of premium paid membership, so we've listed the extra features if you decide that you want the full package.
Bumble's unique selling point is that if you are matched with a potential partner, the woman has to send the first message.
Whilst some might find this off-putting, reviews of the app suggest that most women like being able to control who they receive messages from.
Rightly or wrongly online dating has become somewhat synonymous with strange men on the internet, and that is something Bumble is designed to combat.
It also means that men don't have to do all of the legwork, which is quite refreshing in the online dating scene.
Most people choose to sign up to Bumble by linking it with their Facebook profile, but you can also use a mobile number.
Upload up to six photos, fill out basic information and then you can start swiping through photos of people on the site and match with those who like you back.
Once you've got a match, it's up to the woman to initiate the conversation.
Paid membership features (Bumble Boost):
- See everybody who has swiped right for you (your 'Beeline');
- Rematch with connections that have expired;
- Extend matches by 24 hours.
Bumble Date is the original version of the app, but Bumble Bizz and Bumble BFF are alternatives that let you find networking opportunities and friends.
Happn relies on GPS to find people for you to match with, and profiles will only show up if you have crossed paths with the person in real life – or if you've been within 250 metres of each other.
Some may find being tracked by the app a little disconcerting, as it does pinpoint exactly when you were within range of this person, but it doesn't state exactly where you were.
It is quick and simple to fill out a Happn profile as there are no quizzes or tests, you just add a description of yourself and a photo or two and then you're good to go.
Paid membership features (Happn Premium):
- Schedule when your profile will be invisible to other users (although this is based on time rather than specific locations);
- See everybody who has liked you.
This is a good app if you are looking to find people who frequent the same places as you.
Happn also has an 'I'm up for...' feature, which allows you to find people nearby who have some free time and want to do specific activities, like going for a walk or grabbing a bite to eat.
Hinge markets itself as 'the dating app designed to be deleted', which is fairly revolutionary compared to more typical dating sites that entice you into buying long memberships.
Setting up your profile is also quite unique as it asks that you choose three questions or prompts – such as 'we'll get along if...' or 'the award I should be nominated for is...' – and the answers will be dispersed throughout your profile in between photos.
If you want to start chatting to somebody, you have to like or comment on an aspect of their profile, which can be a good icebreaker if you're never quite sure how to strike up a conversation.
Paid membership features (Preferred Hinge):
- Unlimited likes to use;
- See everybody who likes you at once;
- Additional filters for your profile, such as height, preferences to do with children, and drug use.
If you're not confident starting conversations, Hinge could be a good choice as the quirky questions act as a good springboard into a topic.
They also mean you'll get a better insight into a person from their profile compared to other apps where members are only asked to provide a description of themselves.
Lumen's claim to fame is that it was the first dating app specifically designed for over 50s, and it is very strict on keeping younger people out.
Whilst some apps encourage relationships between people of very different ages, this app was created for those interested in dating other 'mature single people'.
That said, Lumen has shaken off the fuddy-duddy image that some might associate with a dating app aimed at over 50s ‒ the interface is simple and easy to use, but it has a very clean design and specialises in eye-catching advertising.
Lumen encourages members to write detailed profiles, with three photos, a full 'about me' description, and a detailed 'I'm looking for...' section being the minimum requirements.
Lumen also verifies every person who joins the app, which is great in terms of minimising the number of fake accounts on the system.
This is done by having every member take a photo of themselves as they sign up and that photo is then verified by somebody working at Lumen, which ensures that everybody is who they claim to be.
You can then swipe through profiles and start conversations with people who you match with.
Paid membership features (Lumen Premium):
- Start 12 conversations a day (the free version only allows for six per day);
- See everybody who has liked your profile.
Lumen has made the effort to ensure that connections on Lumen are meaningful, so there is a 50 character minimum on first messages.
This prevents bland introductions that give you nothing to work with, such as messages that just say 'Hi' and 'Hello'.
If your message hasn't been responded to within seven days, the conversation will be deleted to prevent dead conversations from clogging up your inbox.
OkCupid has been around for a long time and it's pretty well-established in the world of online dating.
That said, it has very much kept up with the times and is considered to be one of the most liberal sites out there for singletons.
OkCupid has a personality test that you need to fill out to complete your profile.
The questions delve into your beliefs and values, covering everything from 'should immigrants be required to learn the official language of the country they are living in?' to 'are carbohydrates something you think about?'.
Once you've set up your profile you are able to search for people with similar interests, hobbies, and quirks, and the 'Double Take' feature sends you the profiles of people who fit your 'Looking For' credentials.
Paid membership features (A-List or A-List Premium):
- See all of the people who have liked you;
- Get rid of ads on the app.
OkCupid has earned a reputation for being a very progressive online dating option, and with 13 orientation choices and 22 gender options, it's an inclusive app that aims to find somebody for everyone.
Plenty of Fish (POF)
This app claims to have 65,000 new members worldwide every day, so that old consolation phrase of 'there are plenty more fish in the sea' seems to ring true here.
You also don't need to have a paid membership to message unlimited numbers of people on POF, unlike a lot of other dating apps.
POF profiles are relatively simple to complete and there is the option to fill out the POF Relationship Chemistry Predictor.
This test measures the five factors that POF thinks best measure compatibility: self-confidence, family-orientation, self-control, social dependency/ openness, and easygoingness.
You can then browse your options yourself, or look through the 'Ultra Match' feature, which lists the members that Plenty of Fish thinks you are most compatible with.
Paid membership features (Upgraded Membership):
- Unlock extended profiles;
- See if your emails were read or deleted;
- Show up first on the app's 'Meet Me!' feature.
Unlike most dating sites and apps, Plenty of Fish does not connect to social media platforms for a quick and easy sign up.
There are pros and cons to this, but if you want to keep your social media presence very separate from your online dating, POF might be a good way to go.
Probably the most famous online dating platform, Tinder has been hailed as everything from brilliantly efficient and the source of long-term relationships to a superficial app where people aren't really looking for long-term love.
Kicking off your Tinder career is very simple in that you choose some photos and have the option to complete a 'Bio', but this isn't compulsory.
This does mean that a lot of profiles consist of a single photo and perhaps the odd emoji if you're lucky, but it is a quick sign up process.
Tinder was the original app when it came to swiping, and it's become so popular that 'Swipe left' and 'Swipe right' are in the long list of phrases copyrighted by the company.
If you like a profile you swipe right, and if you don't you swipe left. If the other person has also liked your profile you're notified that you've matched, and the conversation can start from there.
Paid membership features (Tinder Plus or Tinder Gold):
- Unlimited likes;
- 'Passport' feature that enables you to chat to anybody in the world;
- 'Rewind' feature that lets you get somebody back who you've already swiped past.
The concept of Tinder is a lot more basic than most dating platforms and it's safe to say that it's predominantly based on members' aesthetics and the photos that they choose to upload.
That's not to say that the app hasn't been the meeting place of lots of long-term relationships, but couples coming up with an alternative story as to how they met is not unheard of.
If you're happy to spend a bit of money on finding the right person, these websites are worth taking a look at.
Whilst all of these sites offer free membership, in order to really get full use of them you'll need to pay a membership fee.
We've created a rundown of some of the most popular sites and compared their paid features.
It takes a little longer than average to set up a profile on eHarmony.
The process involves filling out sections such as 'the thing I'm most passionate about' and 'the most influential person in my life has been...', so the questions tend to dig quite deep and may require a bit of thought, but to quote the eHarmony website: 'why would you rush something as important as finding love?'.
eHarmony has quite limited features for those not willing to pay for membership, and you're not even allowed to send messages if you're not a member.
You can browse matches, add people to your favourites list and send winks, but if you want to actually get in touch with people, you'll need to pay up.
So what are you paying for?
Members of eHarmony are able to view photos, have a look at who has put you on their favourites list and see who has looked at your profile.
It's also possible for you to browse the site anonymously.
On top of that, there's the perk that comes with all paid dating sites, which is that you know that everybody else is also paying to be on there, meaning members are far more likely to be serious about finding a relationship than those on free apps and sites.
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Membership for eHarmony is one of the pricier options when it comes to online dating.
The cheapest monthly cost is for those willing to sign up for 24 months, but you have to ask whether you want to commit to two years, as you won't be able to get any money back should you find somebody before your membership expires.
Probably the best-known dating website around, Match.com has a huge database of over nine million paying members, according to Statista.
It is free to sign up to Match.com, and you are able to browse member profiles and send and receive 'winks' without spending any money.
So what are you paying for?
According to Match.com, it is worth paying for a subscription as it ensures you get 'a high-quality service' as well as the 'comfort that the members of the site are serious about finding a date', both of which should give you a better chance of finding like-minded people.
Once you've paid for membership, you're then able to send messages to any members on the site and take part in the website's singles events that take place up and down the country, and they include everything from quiz nights to food tours and even dating workshops.
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Match.com does offer a free trial that lasts three days, which gives you a little bit of time to see whether or not you think it is worth the money.
EliteSingles promises to deliver all member three to seven partner suggestions a day based on a personality test.
The test looks at five dimensions of compatibility: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
By signing up to EliteSingles without paying for membership you are able to create a profile and upload photos, but you're not able to respond to any messages that you receive.
You are not able to look for matches yourself whether you're paying or not – EliteSingles delivers matches to you instead. Profiles are also verified to minimise the number of fake profiles.
So what are you paying for?
As a paying member of EliteSingles you have access to unlimited messaging and are able to view all of the photos on the site.
You are also allowed to download the app, whereas non-paying members are restricted to the website.
The 'Have you met...' feature is also part of the membership and it gives you up to 20 additional partner suggestions per day.
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The target market is professionals, and the site's homepage boasts that 85% of its members 'hold an above-average education'.
As the name suggests, it's clear that the site is trying to attract a certain type of person, and those on the site are likely to consider themselves 'elite', which in itself may say quite a lot about its demographic.
Parship prides itself on matching people based on answers to a test that looks at 30 'essential personality characteristics'.
With this as a basis, the site is geared towards pairing people up who are 'looking for a long-term relationship' and who 'could be genuinely compatible with you', so it's definitely more for people looking to take dating a little more seriously.
As a free member, you can take the compatibility test and send and receive contact requests, but the communication between you and recommended matches is limited.
You won't actually be able to respond to any contact requests without paying for membership, which means that it doesn't really work without it.
So what are you paying for?
If you decide to invest in Parship you'll have access to all of the site's features, and after taking the personality test you'll be able to get an overview of your results.
Members also get a much clearer insight into who's interested in them, with lists of people who visit your profile and the ability to view photos that have been sent to you.
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Security is a big selling point on Parship – only paying members are able to see images on the site, and they are blurred out for non-paying members.
If this is a primary concern for you and you have faith in the science behind matchmaking, Parship might be the option for you.
Niche dating platforms
If none of the above seems the right place for you to find love, then there is a whole range of other niche dating websites bursting with members.
Think your beauty is wasted on normal mass dating websites? Try beautifulpeople.com – a site for the not-so-modest where you can hunt for someone as attractive as yourself.
Signing up is quite a brutal process, however.
Current members are given 48 hours to rate how you look before there's a verdict as to whether you're good looking enough to join.
You can even watch the whole process unfurl and see how many people rank you as 'beautiful', 'hmmm OK', 'no', or the rather unflattering 'absolutely not'.
A good choice for those who are overly content with their own aesthetic qualities but probably to be avoided if your self-esteem isn't at its highest.
The newspaper you read often reflects the way that you view the world, so their dating sections might be a good place to find likeminded singles: Telegraph Dating and Guardian Soulmates are just a couple of examples of bustling hubs full of witty and well-written profiles.
Gamers looking for love might want to have a look at dateagamer.com, which has over 150,000 single gamers ready to find a match.
There’s also greensingles.com, a dating site for people who are interested in helping the environment and it claims to be the best site for vegan and vegetarian dating.
One niche website that didn't quite get off the ground was RemainderApp, which was designed after the EU Referendum as a place for Remainers to find soul mates who were also sad about the Brexit result.
The website has only reached 5% of its goal in terms of the necessary funds to get it started however, so it wasn't quite as popular as the founders had hoped.
Lastly, mylovelyparent.com is primarily designed for people wanting to help their older parents find love after loss, separation or divorce.
The website allows you to sign you up on their behalf, write a profile and search for matches. Although the name highlights parents, the site can be used to endorse any old relatives, from aunts and uncles to father-in-laws or siblings.
Is online dating worth doing?
As we've already mentioned, there are some really promising statistics when it comes to online dating, which suggests that it's an avenue worth venturing down if you're looking for love.
There are plenty of free apps and sites to play around with if you're just wanting to dabble, whilst the sites that require a paid membership are probably best-suited to those who are really on the hunt for something serious.
Tell us where you’ve found love in the comment boxes below, whether it was online or otherwise!
Dating apps are one of the best ways to find new dates and possibly spark up a new relationship in today’s tech-savvy world—but there are so many dating apps out there that it can be hard to pick the right one. Some dating apps may not be legitimate, while others simply don’t have the right features or a large enough user base to justify taking up space on your phone. There is also the matter of cost to consider: some dating apps may be completely free, while others charge a premium for membership or special features. That is why it’s important to know what you want from a dating app—and which are the most worthwhile dating apps—before you think about tapping “install.”
If you want to know the very best South African dating apps to download, take a look at this list of the 5 best dating apps for finding dates in South Africa.
AfroIntroductions is the world’s largest African dating site. Its user base extends across the world, connecting African singles from many different countries who are interested in finding dates, love, and the perfect romance.
AfroIntroductions has numerous features, including:
- AfroIntroductions account can be used as an app or online website
- Free basic account with additional membership option
- Photo upload option
- Searchable database with matches based on your profile preferences
- In-app messaging feature
- Instant notifications
- Experienced owners (Cupid Media Network)
There are many benefits to using AfroIntroductions. These benefits include:
- Extensive user base makes it easy to find South African singles compared to less popular dating apps
- Easy to use interface is engaging and great even for beginners
- In-app messaging lets you talk with matches without giving up your private phone number
- Photo upload option is great for seeing (and sharing) multiple photos
- Database lets you search by preferences which makes finding dates easy
Like any dating app, there are downsides to using AfroIntroductions as well, including:
- Paid membership limits many of the app features to paid accounts
- Database search needs more options to narrow down preferences even further
- Paid memberships can only be purchased with a credit card, which may deter some users
Interracial Match is a dating app designed for anyone looking for interracial matches. The interracial aspect of this particular app extends to all races, ranging from Asian men looking for black women, black women looking for Hispanic men, and so on. Its varied user base is extensive that it’s easy for anyone to find dates, matches, and perhaps even a long-term romance.
Users who download Interracial Match will find that the app has many useful features. These include:
- Instant notifications for matches
- Instant notifications for messages
- 24/7 customer service
- Verified user registration to weed out catfishing and bots
- Verified photos
- Safety and security tips
- Searchable database by ethnicity and other preferences
- Paid membership options
As with any dating app, there are certain benefits to using Interracial Match, which include:
- Customer service is available 24/7 and has fast responses to queries
- Verified registration makes it less likely to be tricked, conned or otherwise catfished
- Verified photos likewise help ensure accounts are authentic
- Database options for searching by ethnicity make it easy to browses matches that suit your preferences
Interracial Match does have some notable downsides, including the following:
- User interface is outdated and doesn’t have many exciting features outside of browsing for matches
- Paid membership required for many of the app’s features, including certain types of messaging and searching, which makes free memberships very limited
- Accounts can take a few days to get approved/verified
Tinder is an extremely popular dating app that has achieved 30 billion–yes, billion!–matches so far around the world. Tinder is not strictly a dating app, since it can be used to find all sorts of relationships, but it is especially popular among South African singles looking for romance
Tinder has some unique features for its users, which include:
- Free and paid account options
- Unique “swipe” system lets you approve or reject matches with an easy swipe of a finger
- Tinder Plus paid membership includes unlimited likes, passport to talk to singles in different countries, ‘rewind’ option to change your mind about swiping left, Super Likes to stand out, and a free “Boost” each month.
- Tinder Gold option for all of the benefits of Tinder Plus, along with more Super Likes, better profile options, and the “Likes You” feature that lets you see what users have liked your profile.
There are many pros to using the Tinder dating app. These pros include the following:
- Very easy to use with a unique and intuitive app design
- Can be fun to swipe left or right on matches rather than having to dig through profiles, read extensive biographies, and so on
- Extremely popular app so there are a lot of potential matches to choose from
Of course, like any app, Tinder has its downsides as well. These cons include:
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- Swipe feature doesn’t let you learn much about someone before deciding ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on them
- If you don’t have a paid membership you don’t have the option to “rewind” or change your mind about swiping left on a match
- Paid membership features can be expensive if you get them regularly
SouthAfricanCupid is a unique dating app designed specifically for South African singles. SouthAfricanCupid allows South African singles to look for everything from fun dates to love to long term relationships and everything in between.
SouthAfricanCupid has several notable features, which include:
- SouthAfricanCupid account so you can log in anywhere, even outside the app
- Free and paid membership options
- Profile customization options
- Photo upload options for all users
- Database for searching for members based on preferences
- Instant notifications using the app
- In-app messaging system
There are many pros to using SouthAfricanCupid. These pros include the following:
- In-app messaging system lets you keep your private information private
- Notifications help you interact with people in real-time after they message you
- User base is made up of South African singles so you won’t have to deal with matches outside the country
- Interface is easy to use and is well designed
Naturally, there are downsides to using this dating app as well. The downsides for SouthAfricanCupid include:
- User base is smaller in number when compared to dating apps with a broader location appeal
- Paid memberships are required for some of the apps features, including unlimited access to the in-app messaging system
- App counter for amount of users in your area is not always correct
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OKCupid is one of the most popular dating apps in the world. It is designed to help people make better connections through extensive dating profiles that will help you–and other singles–find matches that are truly compatible. OKCupid is particularly popular among South African singles because of its extensive profile features and matching system.
OKCupid has many features designed to help its clients make the most of online dating. These features include:
- In-app messaging system that focuses on compatible connections, not random messages
- Extensive dating profiles include options for “deal breakers” and “biggest passions” to help the site find better matches
- Personal preference options to help you find people who meet certain criteria
- Option to browse profiles or participate in quick match swiping
- Free and paid membership options
- Premium paid membership includes ability to see who likes you, use more options when searching, and eliminates ads.
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There are some particular benefits to using OKCupid, which include:
- Website’s dedication to personal compatibility makes it easier to find romance and long-term relationships
- Deal-breaker and passions options makes it easier than ever to eliminate people who you almost certainly won’t be interested in
- Multiple options for finding matches (browse or swipe) is both fun and worthwhile
- In-app messaging system is easy to use and keeps you focused on finding possible matches
- App is well designed, easy to use, and has a fun layout
Of course, OKCupid does have its downsides. These downsides include:
- Paid membership is pricey and doesn’t add to much to the dating app experience
- Match pool can be limited depending on your deal breakers and passions
- May be hard to find people in your area depending on where you live
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There are many dating app options out there for South African singles. If you want to ensure that your dating app experience is the best, you’ll need to find a dating app that is not just legitimate, but worth installing and using as well. One question you will need to ask yourself before installing an app is: am I willing to pay for a paid or premium account? Many of the best dating apps do require premium/paid memberships in order to access certain features, so if you are willing to spend some money on finding matches, you will find more dating apps worthwhile to you.
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If you keep the above guide in mind, you are sure to find a dating app that will help you meet the match of your dreams—whatever those dreams may be! Good luck and have fun!