As someone who met her fiancé on Bumble after vowing to never go on dating apps, it's safe to say that I have come around to the idea that you can make genuine connections through an app-if that's what you're looking for. Online dating has become much more common and widely accepted over the past few years-a 2019 study by Statista found that about half of the online users surveyed had met or know someone who had met a romantic partner on a dating app or website. The survey also found that 49 percent of users said they were on the apps looking for an exclusive relationship.
In 2020 alone, 44.2 million Americans used online dating, bringing in $602 million in revenue. While many of the popular dating apps are free, they also offer premium options with features such as customizable filters, read receipts, or an unlimited number of swipes. Statista found that about 15 percent of those using online dating services are paying customers. But are the upgrades worth it?
"It entirely depends on how you use them," says Liam Barnett, relationship coach and founder DatingZest, a platform for online dating advice. "Some apps (Tinder, Bumble, etc.) have the paid option to reverse the swipes or see the people who liked you. In this case, a paid subscription that allows you to see the people who liked you would be helpful and would save time for you."
The answer might just have to come down to your personal preferences and budget. Here's what you should take into account when debating whether to pay for premium.
Is the upgrade to premium worth it?
It was for (former) Tinder user Alix Cohen, who found her soon-to-be husband through the app's premium features. As fate (and technology) would have it, Cohen's Tinder app crashed soon after she swiped right on her fiancé.
"I swore I'd never pay for a dating app," says Cohen. "I frantically made a new account...I paid for one month of unlimited swipes and found him again. Here we are, almost two years later."
Others might opt for premium options on dating apps for the advanced filters. Hinge and Bumble offer advanced filter options so you can narrow your search based on ethnicity, age, zodiac sign, political affiliation, and whether a person smokes or drinks alcohol.
"I basically just got the premium subscription for the filters," says Jannat Hashmi, who met her boyfriend on Hinge. "Distance was a big thing for me, and age (I didn't want to include anyone younger than 27), and I said no smoking or drugs. Given my current relationship, yes 100,000 percent worth it!" says Hashmi, who has been with her boyfriend for a little over a year now.
But the upgrade doesn't always make a huge difference. Bumble user Veronica Pacheco said she initially enjoyed having the one-month Bumble premium membership because it gave her the option to see who "liked" her.
"I liked this a lot because I would just go through the people who liked me. I was done trying to chase people who didn't choose me too," says Pacheco. While Pacheco says the premium features made her feel like she was approaching dating more strategically, she ultimately decided it wasn't worth it-she found that after using the apps for free for a few months, she was still getting some of the same matches as when she was paying.
"For those not feeling the need to give their profiles a push, they can do pretty well, if not better, without the premium subscriptions on dating apps and sites," says Barnett. Many of these apps have different subscription levels with cheaper price points (though you might get less features) so you can decide which features you want more and what you can afford. For example, paying for a three- or six-month membership could save you more than just paying for one month at a time.
Below, the most popular dating apps and sites-along with their costs and features-so you can compare and decide for yourself.
Price: Bumble Premium is $22.99/month or $46.99 for three months
Users*: 42 million monthly users
Unlimited advanced filters
Allows you to see who has swiped right on you
Travel mode allows you to set location to a different area for seven days
Rematch with users who have expired
Explore Bumble's subscription tiers and features here.
Price: Tinder Gold is $14.99/month (under 30), $29.99/month (30 and older)
Users*: 60 million monthly users
See who likes you
New top picks daily
Option to not show age or distance
Five "super likes" per day
Explore Tinder's subscription tiers and features here.
Price: Hinge Preferred is $29.99/month or $19.99/month for three months
Users per month: 6 million people (per Market Watch)
Additional filters for height, politics, drinking, smoking, whether someone has/or wants kids
Allows you to see everyone who likes you in one view
Unlimited number of likes
More on Hinge's subscription and features here.
Price: OKC Premium is $19.99/month for 6 months
Users*: 1 million app installs every week
Set hard filters or "dealbreakers" for categories
See who likes you
Access to public questions your match answers, even before answering them yourself
More on OkCupid's memberships and features here.
Users: 40 million users worldwide
Free to create a profile and browse users in your area, but sign-up is required to actually start having conversations
See your profile views
More on Zoosk's features and costs here.
Price: $10.18/month for eight months
Users*: 150 million registered users
Upload up to 16 pictures on your profile (free version allows eight)
Access to extended profiles
See whether someone has read your message or deleted it
Profile views with date and time viewed
Have your profile boosted to the top
Explore POF subscription and features here.
*The numbers for users per month is based on research from DMR.