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Health & Relationships

14 best free dating sites and apps

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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.

man and woman on phones with dating app logos

Credit: santypan, Luis Molinero – Shutterstock

There are so many free dating sites and apps to choose from, but which 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.

If you're looking for a cute (but cheap) date outfit, try these clothes rental sites.

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:

  1. Tinder

    tinder logo

    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, have unlimited likes, go icognito and hide adverts.
    • Tinder Gold – All the same features as the free and Plus versions, and it also lets you see who's already liked you, get five Super Likes per week, get one monthly Boost and get new Top Picks each day.
    • Tinder Platinum – The features from the free, Plus and Gold versions, as well as the option to message before matching, send prioritised likes and see the likes you've sent over the past week.

    Get Tinder »


  2. Bumble

    Bumble logo

    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 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 people aged between 18 and 22, 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.

    Get Bumble »


  3. Grindr

    grindr logo

    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 there.

    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 get read receipts, view up to 600 profiles in the grid, use explore mode, save phrases to use in chats, send five expiring photos each day, access premium album features, use Grindr Web, unlock Grindr XTRA filters and have no third-party ads.
    • 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 who chatted with you, see typing statuses and send unlimited expiring photos.

    Get Grindr »


  4. HER

    Her app logo

    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 and relationship status, you'll need to pay for premium settings.

    Top tip: HER can be used to make friends as well as for dating.

    Paid-for features on HER

    • HER Premium Gold – Offers you the chance to use advanced filters, rewind profiles, change location, use incognito mode, see who's liked you and remove ads.
    • HER Premium Platinum – All of the Gold features, plus unlimited swipes, a free thirst mode credit each month (to boost your profile for a limited period), the ability to see who's online, who's liked you, read receipts and who's nearby.

    Get HER »


  5. Hinge

    Hinge logo

    Best for finding: Relationships based on individual preferences.

    Pros: Hinge's 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, your opportunities to browse and match will be limited until you fully complete your profile.

    Paid-for features on Hinge

    • Hinge+ – Lets you send unlimited likes, see all the people who like you, sort through likes, improve preferences and discover people in more ways (e.g. by location).
    • HingeX – The same features as Hinge+, as well as enhanced recommendations, the chance to skip the line and send priority likes.

    Get Hinge »


  6. Match

    match logo

    Best for finding: Long-term relationships.

    Pros: Match is a 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 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. An exception to this is if a user has the Connect subscription, 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 its basic dating features.

    Paid-for features on Match

    • Match paid subscription – Unlocks key features, like letting you message other users.
    • Select Upgrade – Allows you to get read receipts and choose who can contact you.
    • Connect Upgrade – Lets anyone (even people without a Match subscription) reply to you.

    Get Match »


  7. Thursday

    Thursday logo

    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. Plus, check out their weekly in-person events.

    Cons: Messages are deleted at midnight, so there's not much time to chat with people on the app.

    Top tip: Thursday events could be a fun way to go out with your single friends and meet new people. Check the app to see if they're running any events near you soon.

    Paid-for features on Thursday

    • Thursday Premium Membership – Features include the chance to send unlimited likes, get boosted, get five Love Keys (to unlock matches) and use ghost mode.

    Get Thursday »


  8. Happn

    Happn logo

    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 precise location won't be visible to other people on Happn. After crossing paths with someone, you'll be shown your own location rather than theirs.

    Paid-for features on Happn

    • Happn Premium subscription – Premium features include seeing who's liked you and using search filters. It's also possible to purchase Boosts.

    Get Happn »


  9. eharmony

    eharmony logo

    Best for finding: Love based on compatibility.

    Pros: eharmony offers some free features, such as letting you take a compatibility test. You'll get unlimited matches and can start interacting with others by sending Smiles, Icebreakers and Likes (but with limited messaging).

    Cons: While you can try the app for free, you'll need to pay a subscription fee to use all the dating features on eharmony. These include seeing all of your matches's photos and sending unlimited messages.

    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 – Lets you send unlimited messages, have unlimited matches, use all the app's communication tools, see all of your matches' photos and access enhanced search features.

    Get eharmony »


  10. Feeld

    Feeld logo

    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: Check the 'Experiences' section of their site to see their upcoming events.

    Paid-for features on Feeld

    • Feeld Majestic Membership – Lets you send unlimited links, see who's liked you, and send one free Ping a day.

    Get Feeld »


  11. Plenty of Fish

    plenty of fish logo

    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 someone great.

    Paid-for features on Plenty of Fish

    • POF Plus – Allows you to upload up to 16 images to your profile, get read receipts, see more details about other members, have unlimited likes, see new members and get rid of ads.
    • POF Premium – All the free and Plus features, as well as the chance to get additional first contacts, search for people by their username and easily see everyone who's liked you.

    Get POF »


  12. Badoo

    Badoo logo

    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: To change your work or education info on your profile, you need to change it on Facebook first, so it's not necessarily the quickest process.

    Top tip: Badoo has some useful safety tips on its 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 – Lets you see who's liked you, undo last votes, chat directly with popular users on Badoo, use Invisible Mode, be the first to contact new users, highlight your messages to contacts, use stickers and remove ads.

    Get Badoo »


  13. Coffee Meets Bagel

    coffee meets bagel logo

    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 tired of the constant swiping on Tinder.

    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, unlimited rewinds, unlimited suggestions, a monthly profile boost, eight 'flowers' a month (where you send a virtual bouquet), premium preferences, read receipts and lets you see all your likes.

    Get Coffee Meets Bagel »


  14. Meetup

    Meetup logo

    Best for finding: New friends and potential dates.

    Pros: Although Meetup isn't a dating app as such, it's a great way to meet like-minded people. You can find book clubs, running groups and loads more via Meetup. So whatever your favourite hobbies, this site can help you meet people nearby who share your interests.

    Cons: As mentioned, Meetup isn't focused on dating so a lot of people using the site will just be looking to make friends.

    Top tip: Some events on Meetup are focused on dating (e.g. speed dating).

    Join Meetup »


Looking for cheap (or free) date ideas? You're in luck. We know of plenty.

Laura Brown

WRITTEN BY Laura Brown

Laura Brown, Head of Editorial at Save the Student, is an award-winning writer with expertise in student money. She project manages influential national student surveys and has presented findings to MPs in Westminster. As an expert on student issues, Laura has been quoted by the BBC, the Guardian, Metro and more.
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