12 best free dating sites and apps
Looking for dates, mates, or some casual hookups? Dating apps have it all – when you know which ones to use. With this guide, you can find The One for you.
As there are so, so many dating sites to choose from, it can be hard to know which app is best for you.
But, if you're feeling a little fed up with endlessly swiping and getting nowhere, worry not – you've come to the right place.
Check out our list of the best dating apps below, so you can stop wishing love was in the air, and find it at your fingertips instead.
Top dating apps for students
There are options to pay to upgrade the below apps. But, these are the 12 best dating apps which you can download and use for free:
Best for finding: Casual hookups and relationships.
Pros: Tinder is one of, if not the, most popular dating apps. As so many people use it, you're bound to find users to chat with, even if you're somewhere super rural. You can also use Tinder online if you head to their website.
Cons: It's a tad too easy to accidentally swipe the wrong way – particularly with 'Super Likes' (where the other person gets notified) – so swipe with caution.
Top tip: Avoid the typical Tinder cliches in your bio (i.e. "fluent in sarcasm", "don't match if you're not going to talk", "6ft because apparently that matters"...). Be original and keep it light.
Paid-for features on Tinder
• Tinder Plus – Includes bonuses like unlimited likes, the chance to undo your last swipe, extra Super Likes and one Boost a month (Boost makes you one of the top profiles in your area for half an hour).
• Tinder Gold – All the same features as the free and Plus versions, and it also lets you see who's already liked you and receive updated Top Picks every day for a slightly extra cost.
Best for finding: Casual hookups, relationships, work contacts and new friends.
Pros: Women make the first move and the first couple of messages need to be sent within a certain time limit, encouraging faster-paced chats. The Bizz and BFF settings also mean you could find a job and a new best pal on here.
Cons: You'll need to be on Bumble often enough to keep up with the time limits to send the first message and reply, or you could end up losing matches with people you like.
Top tip: Bumble have found that, for 18–22 year olds, the best time to go on the Date setting of their app is between 7–10pm.
Paid-for features on Bumble
• Bumble Boost – Lets you see who's liked you, extend matches for a day longer and rematch with people after a chat's expired.
• Bumble coins – In-app currency which you can use to buy special features like Bumble Spotlight (pretty much the same as Tinder Boost) and SuperSwipe (like Tinder's Super Like function).
Best for finding: Casual hookups and dates with gay, bisexual, trans and queer people.
Pros: Grindr is the biggest social networking app for its target audience. You can easily find local dates and hookups on here.
Cons: It's generally known for quite risqué chat and image sharing – if this isn't for you, we'd recommend giving this app a miss.
Top tip: You can send your location to other users on Grindr, but don't rush into doing this. We recommend asking for things like their Instagram and phone number before sending your location, or meeting them in person so you're sure of their identity. Plus, it's always best to pick somewhere public to initially meet dates from apps.
Paid-for features on Grindr
• Grindr Unlimited – Allows you to unsend messages and photos, see who's viewed your profile, know when people you're chatting to are typing, and more.
Best for finding: Dates and friendships with lesbian, bisexual and queer people.
Pros: HER is the biggest free dating app for LGBTQ womxn. They put a huge emphasis on the importance of equality and empowerment, and they usually run cool events (but of course the coronavirus pandemic will impact these while stay-at-home measures are in place).
Cons: You'll likely have to pay for their events and may need to travel to a major hub like London for them, so it could be pricey.
Top tip: If you do need to travel to get to HER's events, check out our guide to getting cheap train tickets to save money on the journey.
Paid-for features on HER
• HER Premium – Offers features like unlimited swipes and views of who's liked you.
Best for finding: Relationships based on individual preferences.
Pros: "The dating app designed to be deleted" – Hinge's slogan makes it clear that this app can help you find a long-term relationship. Its algorithm works out who you're 'Most Compatible' with and suggests people for you to meet.
Cons: Each time you 'like' someone on here, they'll be notified and given the option to match with you, which can make it feel a teeny bit more daunting than a mindless Tinder swipe.
Top tip: On Hinge, you can add comments to your profile in response to some prompt questions – avoid going for anything too predictable in your answers (e.g. saying the most spontaneous thing you've done is going travelling), and instead say something surprising that will spark conversations.
Paid-for features on Hinge
• Preferred Hinge membership – Lets you use added features like unlimited likes and the option to see all the people who have already liked you (rather than just one person at a time).
Best for finding: Dates with people you've crossed paths with.
Pros: Happn shows you people you walk past, or are likely to cross paths with, which might be more up your street if you'd ideally like to meet someone in person. Plus, it should make it easier to arrange dates if you already live, work or socialise near each other.
Cons: You can see when people were last active on the app, which can make it a little awkward in the early stages of dating between establishing you like each other and having the "let's delete our dating apps" chat.
Top tip: Happn's great for city life where you'll be crossing paths with loads of people each day. But, if you live somewhere more rural, we'd recommend an app like Hinge that shows you people based on your preferences, rather than just your location.
Paid-for features on Happn
• Happn Premium subscription – Premium features include seeing who's liked you and getting up to 10 'Hellos' to send per day (Hellos are a bit like Tinder's Super Likes as the other person gets notified when you send them).
Best for finding: Dates with curious and open-minded single people and couples.
Pros: Feeld is hugely inclusive, with over 20 options for sexual and gender identities. On the app, you can find couples/single people looking for threesomes, as well as others looking to explore kinks, ethical non-monogamy and alternative relationship structures.
Cons: Some users report finding the app buggy.
Top tip: Feeld usually host loads of events like talks, parties and workshops which are great opportunities to meet like-minded people.
Paid-for features on Feeld
• Feeld Majestic Membership – Lets you see who's liked you, hide your profile from Facebook friends, know when someone was last online, and more.
Best for finding: Dates with people who share your interests.
Pros: On CLiKD, you can find dates where you both (you guessed it) click. You find people by setting three questions – if others get at least 2/3 of your questions right, and you get theirs right, you both pass the tests and match.
Cons: You have to sign up through a Facebook account.
Top tip: CLiKD have pretty interesting survey stats on their site about 'isodating' (dating in the age of social distancing) – including that men and women both consider someone bringing in a family member to be the second biggest reason to end an isodate... What's the first?!
Paid-for features on CLiKD
• CLiKD Premium and Platinum – Paid packages will include unlocking the daily and lifetime limits on nudges which let you send notifications to other users when you pass their test to encourage them to take yours too.
Best for finding: Relationships based on a slow-dating method.
Pros: Each day at noon, Once will show you a profile of someone it thinks would be a good match for you. Plus, they've got a (rather brilliant) feature that replaces nude pics sent in chats with images of kittens and, honestly, we're sold.
Cons: If you're in a hurry to meet someone, this might not be the app for you...
Top tip: Matches are chosen each day for active users who have been online within the last 48 hours. So, even if you're not convinced by your match for the day, it's still worth checking the app every day, or every other day, to keep getting suggested matches.
Paid-for features on Once
• Once Crowns – Paid-for features include choosing your match for the next day (without them knowing 👀) and getting matched with someone else who's currently online.
Plenty of Fish
Best for finding: Dates based on a character test.
Pros: Plenty of Fish (POF) is one of the oldest and biggest dating sites. When registering for the app, everyone's asked to complete a detailed questionnaire so POF can more accurately work out who each person would be well-matched with.
Cons: The character test slows down the sign-up process.
Top tip: A recent study by POF found that, according to singletons, the three least popular images on dating apps are bathroom selfies, gym selfies and heavily edited/filtered pics. You're a catch, so leave out these types of pics on Plenty of Fish and you'll quickly get chatting with salmon great.
Paid-for features on Plenty of Fish
• Upgraded POF memberships – Becoming an Upgraded member can get you triple the number of profile views, with features including uploading 16 images to your profile, seeing the date and time someone viewed your profile and standing out in all searches.
Best for finding: Casual hookups, relationships and new friends.
Pros: Search filters include whether people want to make new friends, chat or date which helps you quickly identify the ones who are looking for similar things. Plus, you can video chat and live stream on the app so people can see more about you (and you can learn more about them!).
Cons: You can see who's visited your profile, which isn't great for the ol' self-esteem if they don't like you back.
Top tip: Some users report getting caught out by their membership for Badoo Premium renewing after the seven-day free trial when they would prefer to use the free version. If you get the trial and don't want to pay for Premium features afterwards, be sure to cancel your subscription before getting charged.
Paid-for features on Badoo
• Badoo Premium – Includes seeing who's liked you, the ability to undo last votes and the chance to chat directly with popular users on Badoo.
Coffee Meets Bagel
Best for finding: Relationships based on the app's suggested matches.
Pros: Coffee Meets Bagel's algorithm works out who you're likely to be compatible with and picks a selection of potential matches (or bagels) each day for you. This would suit anyone who's tired of the constant swiping on Tinder, but is also hoping for more than one match a day, like on Once.
Cons: If you don't check your bagels for a day, you could miss the chance to like them unless they're suggested to you again in future.
Top tip: Any time you're not keen on the suggested matches, don't ignore them completely – responding with a pass can help the app's algorithm find you better, more suited bagels. 🥯
Paid-for features on Coffee Meets Bagel
• CMB Premium Subscription – Allows you to get activity reports on bagels (e.g. to see how often they message first), see read receipts, and receive extra 'beans' that let you buy other special features.
Ever wondered how much it costs to get over a breakup? (Spoiler: it's a lot).