14 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.
There are so many dating platforms to choose from, but which app is best for you?
If you're tired of endlessly swiping and getting nowhere, 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 14 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).
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 – Lets you undo your last swipe, match with people around the world and have unlimited likes.
- Tinder Gold – All the same features as the free and Plus versions, and it also lets you see who's already liked you, get free monthly Super Likes and get one monthly Boost.
- Tinder Platinum – The features from the free, Plus and Gold versions, as well as the option to add notes to Super Likes and see Top Picks. You can also get Priority Likes. With these, when you like or Super Like someone, your profile's shown to them before others who don't have Platinum.
Best for finding: Casual hookups, relationships, work contacts and new friends.
Pros: Women make the first move when members of the opposite sex match. 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 friend 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. Otherwise, you could end up losing matches with people you like.
Top tip: Bumble has 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 use five SuperSwipes a week, extend matches for longer, have unlimited swipes, backtrack and use Bumble Spotlight once per week.
- Bumble Premium – The same features as Bumble Boost, plus unlimited Advanced filters, a chance to see who's liked you, rematch with people, use travel mode and also use incognito mode.
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, it might be worth giving this app a miss.
Top tip: You can share your location with 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 XTRA – Allows you to use read receipts, view up to 600 profiles in the cascade, use explore mode, save phrases to use in chats, see who's chatted with you, send five expiring photos each day and use Grindr XTRA filters.
- Grindr Unlimited – Has XTRA features and filters, plus added ones like the ability to view an unlimited number of profiles, see who's viewed your profile, see typing statuses and send unlimited expiring photos.
Best for finding: Dates, relationships and friendships with lesbian, bisexual and queer people.
Pros: HER is one of the biggest free dating apps for LGBTQ+ women. They put a big emphasis on the importance of equality, inclusivity and empowerment.
Cons: To filter by gender identity, sexual identity, relationship status and when they were last online, you'll need to pay for premium settings.
Top tip: Follow HER on social media for interesting content and info about their upcoming events.
Paid-for features on HER
- HER Premium Gold – Offers you the chance to use premium filters, rewind profiles, see who's liked you, change location and use incognito mode.
- HER Premium Platinum – All of the Gold features, plus unlimited swipes, ability to see who's online, view read receipts and get one free Boost a month.
Best for finding: Relationships based on individual preferences.
Pros: "The dating app designed to be deleted" – Hinge's slogan highlights that it's a great app for finding 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. This can make it feel a tiny 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. Say something surprising that will spark conversations.
Paid-for features on Hinge
- Preferred Hinge membership – Lets you use added features like unlimited likes and extra filter options (e.g. so you can filter by height or whether someone smokes). You can also see all the people who have liked you (rather than just one person at a time).
Best for finding: Long-term relationships.
Pros: Match is a really well-established dating site, aimed at helping people start serious relationships and find love. If this is what you're looking for, you'll be able to find like-minded people on here.
Cons: It's free to register and start using Match, but to read and send messages, you'll need to sign up for a paid subscription (unless a user has the Connect upgrade, in which case you'd be able to chat with them).
Top tip: Try Match for free before paying for a subscription. You should be able to get a good idea of whether it's right for you based on their basic dating features.
Paid-for features on Match
- Match paid subscription – Unlocks key features, like letting you message other users.
Best for finding: Dates with people you've crossed paths with.
Pros: Happn shows you profiles of people you've walked past or are likely to cross paths with. It should make it easier to arrange dates if you already live, work or socialise near each other.
Cons: If you live somewhere rural, it'll be harder to meet someone on Happn compared to some other apps. An app like Hinge that shows you profiles based on preferences, rather than just location, might be better.
Top tip: Your location won't be visible to other people on Happn. They'll only see where you've crossed paths.
Paid-for features on Happn
- Happn Premium subscription – Premium features include seeing who's liked you, rewinding when you accidentally skip a profile, scheduling Invisible mode, hiding key personal info, using the video call feature five times for up to an hour and getting up to 10 'FlashNotes' to send per day (FlashNotes are a bit like Tinder's Super Likes).
Best for finding: Dates on Thursdays.
Pros: This app helps you avoid the temptation to spend every night on dating apps. You can only match and chat with people on Thursdays. If you're in London, check out their weekly in-person events.
Cons: It's currently quite London-focused, and some reviews suggest there can be technical issues with the app.
Top tip: Thursday is geared up for people who don't like traditional dating sites. So, if you're keen to meet someone without spending loads of time swiping and chatting to potential dates, this app's worth a try.
Paid-for features on Thursday
- Thursday BlackCard Membership – Features include the chance to send unlimited likes and get boosted.
Best for finding: Love based on compatibility.
Pros: eharmony offers some free features, such as letting you take a compatibility test. You can also respond to a first message, see recent visitors to your profile and start interacting with other users by sending Smiles, Icebreakers and Greetings.
Cons: While you can try out the app for free, you'll need to pay a subscription fee to use all of the dating features on eharmony, including seeing photos of all of your matches and having unlimited communication.
Top tip: Have a look at their website for date ideas in different cities across the UK.
Paid-for features on eharmony
- eharmony Premium membership – Subscriptions on eharmony let you get unlimited matches, use enhanced search features, see photos of all of your matches and have unlimited communication.
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: Keep an eye on their social media pages to see if they have any upcoming events.
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: 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.
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 VIP subscription – Offers the chance to receive up to three more matches each day, see who's given you four or five stars, more accurately define your distance settings, find out if someone's passed you and read chat requests.
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, you can expect to answer a series of questions so POF can more accurately work out who you'd be well-matched with.
Cons: The character test slows down the sign-up process.
Top tip: A 2019 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 photos 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 means you can upload up to 16 images to your profile, get read receipts, see more details about other members, have unlimited likes and more.
Best for finding: Casual hookups, relationships and new friends.
Pros: If you'd rather not spend loads of time messaging people on dating apps, you could try Badoo. It lets you video call your matches.
Cons: Some reviews suggest the app has a lot of ads.
Top tip: Badoo has some useful safety tips on their site, including a suggestion to ask for recent photos (within the last four weeks) before meeting someone offline.
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, as you'd get 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. see whether they've been online recently), see read receipts, boost your profile and more.
Looking for cheap (or free) date ideas? You're in luck. We know of plenty.