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Venturing into the world of dating apps can be overwhelming, especially if you’re not exactly sure what to download. Some apps are meant for short-term relationships, while others encourage really getting to know each other before meeting up for a cocktail or FaceTime coffee. Whether you’re looking to head down the aisle or for a casual fling, there’s a service suited for you.
Here we’ve rounded up the best dating apps, so you can meet your match—whether that’s for the night or forever.
Best Dating Apps of 2021
Best Overall: Hinge
Why We Chose It: Hinge gives you a limited number of connections a day, making it a better option for people searching for more serious relationships.
- Shares more information about people, including likes and dislikes
- Feels more focused on meaningful conversations and building a relationship
- Only offers a limited number of matches unless you pay to upgrade
- Wants people to pay to give matches a “rose,” making the app slightly confusing
Hinge started as a way to connect friends of friends and people in your network. When it was founded by CEO Justin McLeod, the app showed people profiles based on proximity as well as Facebook friends they shared in common. Now, it simply connects users with people near the neighborhood they have chosen.
Users can choose to connect with someone by tapping the conversation button and matching or leaving a comment on a page. Profiles offer prompts to get the conversation started like “If loving this is wrong, I don’t want to be right…” and “The one thing I’d love to know about you is….”
Hinge shows you more information about people, so if you’re uncomfortable meeting strangers from the internet, this makes it easier. It gives you people’s last names and usually their neighborhood, age, height, job, hometown, and college.
The app is free but wants people to pay, asking them to pay for virtual "roses" meant for standout matches the service chooses for you based on what you’re looking for. It all feels very much like an episode of The Bachelor. The algorithms daily pick for your best match is also notoriously not helpful. Many times they’ll choose someone extremely far away or with wildly different political affiliations. In some cases, they might show you someone you already know which can be slightly uncomfortable.
Unlike other apps where you have to both agree to match before a message can be sent, people on Hinge can message you an opener to get the conversation going. While it’s free, there is a paid version as well. The Preferred Membership is about $30 for a month, $60 for three months, or $90 for 6 months and allows you to send unlimited links and set stricter filters.
Best for Marriage: Match
Why We Chose It: We chose Match because it’s the best option for serious daters who are marriage-minded.
- Members are seriously looking for relationships or marriage
- Gives users extensive information about potential matches
- Free option gives users only a preview, with no way to access matches or messages
- Because it’s an app you pay for, users take it more seriously
- You can only start a conversation with choices Match presents to you
Match is an old standby for a reason. Because users must pay for membership, it means that the people who join are focused on commitment. Match.com was founded by Gary Kremen and Peng T. Ong in San Francisco in 1993. Since then, it has remained popular, especially with people who are looking for serious relationships.
When you sign up, you enter your name, age, height, whether or not you want kids, how single you are, and if you smoke. You then answer the question “What makes you the happiest?” choosing from activities including concerts, cooking, blogging, binge-watching shows, sports, and more. Next, you select what you’re looking for in a partner, including age range, height range, religion, and whether or not those topics are “must-haves.”
With the free option, members get limited messages from their “top picks” that Match has chosen for them based on compatibility. The premium option allows members unlimited messaging, likes, the ability to see everyone who likes you and who has viewed your profile, one-on-one talks with a dating expert, and more.
Unfortunately, if you’re interested in using Match, you will have to pay; otherwise, you can’t see who’s messaging you or what they’re saying. Memberships cost about $18 monthly for a yearly plan, roughly $22 monthly for six months, and around $30 for three months.
Best for Exclusivity: Raya
Why We Chose It: Raya is famous for being an exclusive dating app frequented by celebrities and influencers.
- Members are respectful and interesting
- The exclusivity of the app makes it more exciting and appealing
- Exciting to see celebrity dating profiles
- Members must pay for more daily likes if they reach their daily limit
- Only works on iPhones
Raya is famous for being one of the most exclusive dating apps, touting A-listers and influencers as members. Because it's invite-only, there’s an application process, and people have to pay to be members, there is a higher-quality appeal to it than a typical app.
Raya is about $7 monthly and you can swipe through people all over the world. If you reach your daily likes, you can pay roughly $7 for 30 more daily likes, or you can simply chat with your current connections, which the app urges you to do. Once you’re a member, you can give friends a friend pass which could help expedite their admission, although the app reserves the right to refuse applications.
Members are located all over the world and tend to work in creative fields. It’s basically Soho House for dating. You can connect your Instagram account, choose a song, make a slideshow of photos, and can search for romantic connections or friends. You can also search by location to see who’s nearby on the app. Raya will also show you which friends you have in common if you both have a mutual friend’s phone number, so you can always ask your pal if they vouch for your potential date. You can also search for members in a certain city or in a specific industry, making it even easier to network or meet people.
Best for First Dates: Bumble
Why We Chose It: Bumble has a unique concept: Women message men first and then they’re given 24 hours to respond, making it a female-driven app.
- Easy to connect with multiple people at once
- Women message first so they can choose the topic
- Location-based so you can see who’s near you if you’re on vacation or in a new town
- Men can easily respond in uncomfortable ways and there’s more harassment
- Many men don’t list lots of information about themselves
- You have limited time to use an opener, so you have to check the app frequently
When Bumble was started by female founder Whitney Wolfe in 2014, it was based on the idea that women would message first, meaning they could choose a conversation starter and control the narrative. Wolfe went on to make the Forbes 30 Under 30 list as well as the Time 100 List and became the youngest woman to take a company public at only 31.
Using Bumble is quite simple. Make a profile with your pictures and information about yourself, and then you can either have a free plan or pay for other options. The “Spotlight” plan promises up to 10 times more matches and puts you at the front of the line for 30 minutes so your potential matches see you first. You can pay about $1 for 30 spotlights, or roughly $6 for a single spotlight. Or you can get 30 spotlights for about $50.
The other option is SuperSwipe, which says you’ll get “up to 10x more conversations.” SuperSwipes allow you to super like someone, so when they start swiping, you’ll be one of the first people they see. It’s about $1 for 30 SuperSwipes and $3 each for two SuperSwipes. If you don’t feel like paying for these two options, you can also upgrade your account to premium to unlock all of the features at once. Premium users upgrade for about $18 and then receive unlimited likes, advanced filters, travel mode to see who’s swiping in certain places, and unlimited backtracks in case you swipe the wrong way on someone, among many other features.
Bumble is a great option for someone starting out who wants to see all of the eligible people around. You have to swipe right to match with people, and then you have 24 hours to make the first move and start the chat, so you do have to check the app frequently, or else matches will expire. Men then have 24 hours to respond. You can search the app with filters, choosing who you’re interested in (men, women, or everyone), age range, and distance. You can also set advanced filters, looking for a specific height, astrology sign, educational background, and more.
Best for LGBTQ Dating: HER
Why We Chose It: We chose HER because it's the world’s largest free dating app for LGBTQ women.
- HER is the largest free dating app for lesbian and queer women
- The app shares LGBTQ+ news and local events taking place, offering safe spaces
- People complain that some couples are looking for threesomes on the app
- If you don’t pay, you have to wait hours for more swipes
HER is the world’s biggest free dating app for queer women, offering the ability to match, as well as providing news on local meet-ups in safe spaces. The app works as a community and tries to be welcoming and supportive.
Much like Tinder, HER is all about the swiping. A swipe left means you're not interested in the person, while a swipe right (or an emoji heart) means that you'd like to get to know the individual. Then, that person can decide if the feeling is mutual and send you a message.
While it is free, there are also three types of premium subscription memberships. A premium, one-month membership starts at about $15, for six months it’s around $60 and for one year it’s roughly $90.
Best for Jewish Dating: JSwipe
Why We Chose It: JSwipe is a great option for Jewish people to swipe and meet, no matter where they’re based.
- Ability to meet Jewish singles easily
- App’s layout makes it difficult to see where people are based or swiping from
JSwipe is a great option if you’re Jewish or want to date Jewish men or women. Launched in 2014 over Passover by founder David Yarus, who also worked for Birthright Israel and Hillel at the time, the Brooklyn-based app was later acquired by its competitor, JDate.
On JSwipe, you enter a short bio, your education, and your age. You're also asked to fill out whether or not you keep kosher and your denomination. Then, you can begin swiping. Your profile page links with your Facebook page, so it will show you what interests you share with matches based on what you previously liked on Facebook.
JSwipe offers a free version, as well as a first-class membership, where you can go to exclusive events and get perks like free drinks and merch. The exclusive version also allows you to see who liked your profile, boost your profile for more matches, swipe
A one-month membership is about $25, three months costs around $45, and a six-month membership is roughly $60. Much like Tinder, it shows you who’s swiping around you based on location, but you can also set the mile radius much larger and see singles all over the world.
Best for Casual Dating: Tinder
Why We Chose It: You can’t ignore the original dating app, Tinder, which sparked the swipe. It's ideal for hook-ups or long-term dating.
- Perfect for dipping your toe into the world of online dating
- Easy to navigate, especially for dating app beginners
- One of the most casual options geared more towards hook-ups
- Emphasizes the endless options you encounter while swiping
Tinder really is the app that started it all. It launched in 2012 and truly changed the dating scene forever, introducing singles to a world of swiping left or right to match with potential bedfellows or serious significant others.
And while there used to be lots of people looking for all different things, it’s now geared much more towards casual dating. Tinder is probably best in a small town where there aren’t as many people on the more niche apps but definitely know that people are looking for more informal arrangements.
While it started as an entirely free app, there’s now a free and paid premium option that allows users to "super like" people (an extra form of flattery that allegedly triples your chances for a match), use the passport feature to see who’s out there in other locations, and see who liked you before you swiped right on them. Tinder Gold gives users all of that and more for around $15 a month, while Tinder Platinum gives users those options as well as the ability to message someone before matching for about $10 monthly for six months.
Downloading a dating app can seem like a big commitment and feel a little bit overwhelming if you’re not sure which to try first, since they all have extremely different vibes. Hinge is the best option if you’re looking to get a little bit more serious about app dating. It gives you more information about potential dates and encourages more meaningful conversations. Raya is ideal if you’re hoping to spot a celebrity or want to network with other like-minded creatives, but it can be difficult to get an invite to it.
Bumble is great if you’re hoping to go on a lot of first dates. The app doesn’t tell you much about people, but it makes it easy to swipe endlessly and start chatting. Think of it more like meeting someone at a bar casually. If you’re looking to date women and want an app exclusively for that, HER is your best bet. And if you want to keep it casual, Tinder is the old faithful for a reason.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do Dating Apps Work?
Some apps require both parties to swipe right if they’re interested and then allow you to connect. Others let one person send a message, and then the recipient can decide whether or not they want to respond. A few of the apps give extensive information, including college, height, and even whether or not people want kids, while others will simply show you nearby potential partners without a lot of information.
Are There Free and Paid Options for Dating Apps?
Most dating apps are free, or at least have a free option as well as a premium, paid option. The free option usually gives people the opportunity to swipe, while paying allows people to be more particular, setting filters that show only a certain height, religion, or political affiliation, for example. For most apps, it’s extremely easy to download them and then use the free version unless you’re looking for something super specific. Some apps, like Raya, do require all users to pay a small monthly fee. Usually, the fee is less if you pay for a few months or longer.
How Much Do Dating Apps Cost?
Dating apps range from free to about $100 if you get a premium version and invest in a few months of it. The least expensive options will give you a range of premium offerings that upgrade your profile, either putting you in the spotlight for potential matches or giving you the option to message someone without matching first.
We asked experts about apps, read reviews, and examined our own years of experience using them. We also looked for apps that give a wide range of information about others, as well as flexibility when it comes to payment plans. It was important for us to present a variety of options for dating preferences, whether it’s casual hookups, first dates, or even marriage. Inclusivity was also an important factor in determining our options, so apps catering to different sexual orientations and religions made the list.