By Jeremy Schneider | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
Online dating was once met with major skepticism. Now? Using an app or website to find a date is as much a social staple as using your phone to call an Uber or to order food. The rise in online dating culture has created a plethora of different dating services, which can be exciting or overwhelming.
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, NJ.com has you covered with a look at some of the best dating apps and websites to help you score a date before the big night.
How much to use: Free. Bumble Boost available for $8.99 for one week, $24.99 for one month, $16.66 a month for three months and $13.33 a month for six months.
Pros: One of the apps that rose to prominence shortly after Tinder, it got some things right that Tinder didn’t — namely a more intuitive design. Bumble also allows you three do-overs a day, giving you a chance to review a profile that you initially swiped “no” on. The app only allows women to initiate the conversation after a match, a safeguard against creepy guys who are more present on other dating services. I’ve personally had great results with Bumble — lots of dates with real, normal people — and highly recommend it. And guys, if you don’t like that you have to wait for the girl to message you? Get over it. There are so many creeps on these things, and this feature helps combat that.
Cons: It can be frustrating to get a match just for them to not message you and have it fizzle out, which is the case if a woman doesn’t decide to message after a match.
Tips for success: Don’t be afraid to extend a match another 24 hours if they haven’t messaged you, another feature that sets Bumble apart from other apps.
Coffee Meets Bagel
How much to use: Free. Premium costs $35 for a month, $20 a month for six months and $15 a month for a year.
Pros: Billing itself as the “anti-Tinder” and having turned down $30 million from Mark Cuban on Shark Tank, Coffee Meets Bagel de-emphasizes swiping and focuses on finding better connections. It’s also more female-focused with its #LadiesChoice feature which means women make the call on if two profiles connect.
Cons: The format can be confusing at times. There’s liking, there’s “taking,” there are “beans” that the app uses as currency for premium features. This app isn’t just about swiping, which means it might take some time to grow accustomed to. These dates don’t come guaranteed with coffee OR a bagel, either, which definitely bummed me out.
Tips for success: Check your phone at noon. That’s when the app is populated with potential matches, meaning it’s the most popular time to use it and most likely to spark up conversation.
How much to use: Free. Grindr XTRA costs $14.99 for a month with a one-week free trial, $9.99 a month for three months, $8.49 a month for six months and $6.49 a month for a year.
Pros: The first gay geo-social app in the iTunes App Store, it is the largest and most popular gay mobile app community in the world. Available in 192 countries, it is the preeminent gay dating app. Grindr shows you users near you and allows you to message them, and the rest is up to you.
Cons: The lack of a matching process means you can be messaged by anyone without any filter — and that can lead to unwanted messages. The app also has a reputation for being a “hook-up app” with less people looking for relationships.
Tips for success: Don’t be afraid to be rejected. Because you can message anyone near you on the app and there’s no matching process, you have no idea if they’re interested or not. Don’t let that discourage you. Shooters shoot, right?
Jeremy Schneider | NJ Advance Media For NJ.com
What it costs: Free. Preferred membership costs $12.99 a month for one month, $6.99 a month for three months and $4.99 a month for six months.
Pros: An app more geared toward relationships, the profile is very customizable with prompts and questions to answer and make yourself stand out. Hinge also focuses on showing you people you have mutual Facebook friends with, in hopes of finding people with who, you’re more compatible.
Cons: While some find the variable profile prompts fun, some find them overwhelming and prefer a simpler set-up. You also get a limited number of “likes” per day, which can be annoying if you’re on a roll or want to keep looking.
Tips for success: Spend some time on your profile — no one is going to swipe right for you if you have boring, one-word answers that don’t paint a picture of your personality.
How much to use: Free. Premium membership costs $99 for a month, $119 for three months, $199 for six months and $249 for a year.
Pros: An invite-only app that connects not only with your Facebook but your LinkedIn as well, people on (or in?) The League take it seriously, and are typically career-driven. If you’re serious about your online dating, this might be the service for you.
Cons: Some have called The League elitist, and even racist. It’s not available in every city, and even if you get invited there’s a waiting list. You get just three matches a day, which for some may be good but others might find it discouraging.
Tips for success: Take your matches seriously. You get just three potential candidates a day, so you’ll need to make the most of them. Also, be prepared to be made fun of when you tell your friends you met your wife on “The League,” because no one has heard of it and when you start to explain it, it might sound pretentious.
How much to use: Free, with Tinder Plus costing $9.99 for one month, $5.83 a month for six months or $4.58 a month for a year.
Pros: The app that started the swiping craze, it’s arguably changed the dating scene more than any app in history. As the original, it has a massive user base and thus lots of chances for matches. It’s one of the most simplistic apps, asking you only to swipe left or right on a profile and then alerting you if there’s a match that will allow you to start chatting.
Cons: While it is the original, it has been somewhat lapped by other dating apps with more niche markets. There are also more fake accounts on Tinder than on other apps, which can be frustrating. Also, I may or may not have had my heart broken by a girl I met on Tinder. Not bitter or anything, I promise.
Tips for success: Promptly message matches, and be wary of fake accounts.
Plenty of Fish
How much to use: Free. 19 cents for a token, $8.95 for five tokens, $16.90 for 10 tokens.
Pros: Something of a hybrid between older dating websites and the latest swiper apps, POF gives you a bit of the best of both worlds with a chance you express yourself while not going too in-depth and giving you the fun of being able to swipe for people.
Cons: While not as much of an issue on the site’s mobile app, looking at a potential match’s pictures takes you away from the page where you can swipe yes or no on a desktop. The app also makes it confusing as how to talk to a match once it alerts you that you’ve matched. Also, if you’ve watched MTV’s “Catfish,” you already know a good bunch of catfishing stories began on Plenty of Fish.
Tips for success: Use a desktop to build your profile and your phone to look at your potential matches.
How many people use it: Free. Premium costs $59.95 for three months, $74.95 for six months.
Pros: If you want the dating website experience without the long profile-building process, Zoosk might be your sweet spot. If you log in with your Facebook account, it takes about two minutes to build your page.
Cons: You might find yourself excited about a match who just sent you a message, only to realize that you can’t see it unless you have a subscription. Buzzkill.
Tips for success: Take advantage of the site’s SmartPick feature, which allows you to answer a few questions to narrow down your matches without making the process overwhelming.
How much to use: Free to build a profile, but a subscription is needed for nearly every feature. Standard costs $57.95 a month for three months, $34.95 a month for six months and $18.95 a month for a year. Premium costs $70.95 a month for three months, $45.95 a month for six months and $27.95 a month for a year.
Pros: You get out what you put into dating sites. This one is asking a lot from you, with an intense questionnaire to help you find your match, which could lead to better results. The eHarmony Guarantee also means that if you aren’t satisfied with your matches for the first three months, you can get an additional three months free.
Cons: The profile-building process is long and cumbersome, with repetitive questions and a serious time commitment. EHarmony is also definitely for daters looking for something serious as opposed to casual.
Tips for success: It’s going to be annoying, but commit to your profile. eHarmony’s users are hardcore and dedicated, meaning they’ll be building detailed profiles and looking for the same commitment.
How much to use: Free to build a profile, but a subscription is needed for nearly every feature. Standard costs $39.99 for one month, $29.99 a month for three months and $19.99 a month for six months. Premium costs $59.99 for one month, $44.99 a month for three months and $29.99 a month for six months.
Pros: One of the oldest dating sites in the game, JDate was founded in 1997 and won a Webby back in 2006 for social networking. The app launched in 2014 and is the most popular Jewish dating app on the market.
Cons: If religion isn’t important to you, this app probably won’t meet your interests. You don’t have to be Jewish to use the app, but many of the people on the app are religious. And while it’s admirable that the service launched a mobile dating app, it still feels like an old website service as you’re making your profile with less opportunities for customization.
Tips for success: With a list of interests to chose from as a opposed to an open field to customize, utilize the about me section as much as you can to make your profile stand out.
How much to use: Free to build a profile, but a subscription is needed for nearly every feature. Standard costs $21.95 a month for three months, $23.95 a month for six months and $25.95 a month for a year. Bundle costs $30.99 a month for three months, $25.99 a month for six months and $22.99 a month for a year.
Pros: Founded in 1993, Match.com helped launch the online dating craze way before Tinder and Bumble. The site gives you a chance to make a comprehensive dating profile to help you find matches. The mobile app is closer to Tinder, and it gives you a chance to feature personal videos to show yourself off.
Cons: These profiles take longer to put together, and the whole website is geared toward relationships. If you’re looking for something quick or casual, you should probably try a different app. And while there are free trials for the site, eventually you will have to pay for even the basic service. Also, be prepared to be bombarded by emails and notifications. I unsubscribed weeks ago and I’m STILL getting annoying emails.
Tips for success: Go bold in your profile picture. With this site showing you a bunch of potential matches all at once, it would be wise to do something to catch attention.
How much to use: Free to build a profile, but a subscription is needed for nearly every feature. A-List basic costs $9.95 a month for one month, $7.95 a month for three months and $4.95 a month for six months. A-List Premium costs $24.90 a month for one month, $22.90 a month for three months and $19.90 a month for six months.
Pros: OkCupid uses a questionnaire to build your profile, asking for your answers as well as what you would like your ideal match to answer. This makes the application-building process a lot more fun than other apps, with it taking on the feel of an online quiz. It asks a range of questions, from simple stuff to if you smoke and drink to more intimate things like how many dates you typically wait before sleeping with someone. The app says the the more questions you answer, the better your matches will be.
Cons: While building your profile can be fun, it can get tedious. This is also probably not the place to go if you’re looking for quick and casual.
Tips for success: Answer as many questions as you can. The deeper you go, the more accurate your dating profile is and thus you have a better chance at finding good matches and good dates.
Black People Meet
How much to use: Free to build a profile, but a subscription is needed for nearly every feature. A subscription is $16.75 for one month, $41.85 for three months, $71.70 for six months.
Pros: Billing itself as the largest black dating app for singles in the United States, the site has built a massive community of African-American singles. If you fit the demographic, you have a large pool of potential matches.
Cons: There’s nothing stopping other races from joining Black People Meet, but it’s clearly intended for its target audience.
Tips for success: Be aware of fake profiles. This site is reportedly notorious for fake accounts.
How much to use: Free to build a profile, but a subscription is needed for nearly every feature. A subscription is $21.95 for one month, $26.64 for three months and $65.94 for six months.
Pros: A website that sells itself as being “for single farmers, ranchers and down-to-earth country folks,” because “city folks just don’t get it.” If you’re really anti-city and all about country living, you’ve come to the right place.
Cons: The website looks like something out of 2004, and if you aren’t interested in this specific niche then you probably won’t be very satisfied.
Tips for success: Get a cowboy hat? Honestly, just know you audience with this one.
How many people use it: Free to build a profile, but a subscription is needed for nearly every feature. A subscription is $29.96 for one month, $90 for six months and $107.76 for the six month value plan with added features.
Pros: If you’re in an older age group, or interested in an older age group, you’ve come to the right place. Just know that Netflix and Chill may turn into Early Bird Special and Sleep.
Cons: Not interested in 50+ singles? You’re probably barking up the wrong tree.
Tips for success: This, like many of the more formal dating sites, require a subscription for all the key features. If you’re confident that this is the dating pool you want to jump into, it may be worth getting the subscription.
Single Parent Meet
How many people use it: Free to build a profile, but a subscription is needed for nearly every feature. A subscription is $16.99 for one month, $39.07 for three months and $45.85 for six months.
Pros: Having a child can be a major stigma in the dating world. This site gets it out in the open right away, making for a more comfortable space to find matches.
Cons: If you don’t like kids, chances are you’re not going to like your results on this site.
Tips for success: Owned by People Media which also owns Match and Our Time, Single Parent Meet has the same format as those sites. That also means you’re going to need to subscribe to get all the major features.
How much to use: Free to build a profile, but a subscription is needed for nearly every feature. A subscription is $39.95 for one month, $17.95 a month for three months and $9.95 a month for six months.
Pros: Very helpful if you’re in an older age group, or looking to date someone in an older age group. The fact that I can drive at night was a huge turn-on for the ladies on this app, apparently.
Cons: A long profile-building process can be cumbersome, and this is a dating app with a very specific niche that might not fit your interests. You also cannot do anything on the site without subscribing.
Tips for success: Take the profile-building process seriously, even if it feels tedious.
How much to use: Free, but a premium account costs $20 a month.
Pros: This app used to be known as “Bang With Friends,” and that should pretty much tell you everything you need to know. While most apps give you the option to swipe left or right, Down has you swipe up if you’re interested in a date or down if you’re interested in hooking up.
Cons: You may be able to find dates and relationships on this app, but that’s definitely not the main intention of the service. If you can use this app without laughing at yourself, you’re a stronger person than I am.
Tips for success: Down gives you just a handful of matches a day, so take them seriously. There are ways to get more without getting a premium account, though, with promotional offers with advertisers.
Cost to use: Free.
Pros: It’s probably the most unique app on this list. You swipe left or right on things, not people, that you like or hate, and you’re then matched with like-minded people who you can connect with. It’s like a mini-game inside a dating app, and it can be a lot of fun. It also makes me think of the Playa Haters’ Ball from Chappelle Show, and that’s always a plus.
Cons: Some might say connecting with someone over mutual hatred is kind of asking for trouble. But even if you’re cool with that, this app is young and thus the dating pool is smaller.
Tips for success: Pay attention to your compatibility percentage with potential matches. Even if you aren’t gripped by their pictures, a high-percentage match could make for some excellent conversation.
Jeremy Schneider may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @J_Schneider. Find NJ.com on Facebook.