The Economics Of Online Dating: Why Paid May Be Better Than Free

The Economics Of Online Dating: Why Paid May Be Better Than Free

If you were born in 1977 or later...

Chances are, you grew up in the world of online dating as one of many options (perhaps a primary option) for finding love.

Believe it or not, started way back in 1995. And while there are lots more online dating platforms these days, like Tinder, Plenty of Fish or eHarmony – all of which promise you the chance of romance...

It’s still not easy to find that elusive love of your life.

Understand what you want

With Valentine's Day tomorrow (or if you prefer, Single’s Awareness Day), love is on our mind – whether we like it or not.

...Are you one of these?

  • You love it. (No pun.)
  • You hate it.
  • Or... you need to make a last-minute reservation (again)?

No matter where you fall, when it comes to online dating, here’s the thing:

You have to know what – or who – you’re looking for.

1. If you’re looking for a hookup...

If it’s a hookup you want, this list includes ten websites and apps that you may find useful.

My opinion? If you’re into these kind of sites, particularly if you’re married or involved with someone already, expect that there’ll be issues. These types of sites tend to attract the wrong kind of attention, like we found out in the 2015 Ashley Madison hacking.

Related: Eating Out At Restaurants: The Ultimate Guide To Spending Less

2. If you want to find a long-term potential partner...

Now, if you’re looking for legit long-term kind of love, here are a few places to find them:

Just remember...

Whatever your flavour (whether seeking a hookup or long-term love), it’s important to remember to use care and caution when using any online platforms to meet people, such as:

  • bring a friend along,
  • meet in a public place,
  • let family and friends know where you will be,
  • scope the person out ahead of time, and so on.

Because here’s the bottom line: you’re meeting a stranger.

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The cost of online dating

So, you know the old saying: “you get what you pay for”?

Well, that’s not always true when it comes to online dating.

Most sites, even those that are free, have some sort of paid option. Usually, this comes in the forms of various upgrades and benefits, like: messaging people, letting you have extra Super Likes (you always need more, am-i-rite?), or a free “I’m a lover not a fighter” t-shirt.

Here’s a quick highlight of some of the various options:

Online Dating Site


For Singles who...


Free or $215.88 (USD, annual)

...want the online experience and can also get local events as an added bonus

Plenty of Fish

Free, $81.40 (annual)

...want to meet lots of local people


$191.40 with promo code (annual)

...want to be matched on a deeper level


Free, Upgrades available

...are looking for a hookup


Free, $191.40 (USD, annual)

...are age 50 and up

Elite Singles

Free, $455.40 (annual)

...are ‘educated’ and ‘professional’

Coffee Meets Bagel

Free, $420 (USD, annual)

…are ladies that want the ball in their court

Related: How Much Is Reasonable to Spend on Alcohol Every Month?

Your time investment

In my case, my goal was to meet someone for long-term love.

Sure, I like a good deal. And I had tried free sites in the past, including Plenty of Fish. But eHarmony had a promo with roughly one-third of their normal annual fee…

So, a couple things gave me the push:

  • They offered a deal with a discounted rate.
  • eHarmony allegedly worked on a deeper level, using its matching algorithms, leading to better matches upfront, separating the wheat from the chaff.

The pros of a paid site

You may be saying, “but it’s so expensive to do a paid website!” – and yes, you’re right. But in the grand scheme of things…

If you pay $200 to meet the love of your life, isn’t that money well spent?

I think it’s a no brainer.

Matched on a deeper level

What I really liked about eHarmony (and it appears that many paid websites are the same) is that because there is such an intensive matching exercise (about 60-90 minutes to complete the questionnaire) – you get higher quality matches based on personality.

...And you save time from having to go through the “no” category.

That doesn't necessarily account for the looks department (attraction is important of course), but at least it makes the process a bit speedier.

Speaking of speed: the messaging process can become onerous too, especially if you’re not a quick typer. One pro tip: If you use a voice to text application on your phone or computer, you can say aloud what you’re trying to say and likely save a lot of time from typing. All you have to do is copy and paste what you say into the dating app or website. I personally find Google Docs to be an easy way to do this, but you can use other apps too.

Final thoughts

When it comes to online dating, there are some HORRIBLE stories out there.

Whether you want to keep your toes from being sucked or have arguments about personal hygiene ‒ you have to use your head when it comes to the people you’re meeting. And if you see anything like the following, it might be time to get out of Dodge:

  • If he/she asks if they can watch you sleep on the first date…
  • If he/she asks you how much money you have…(beware the Internet Black Widow)
  • If he/she asks how anyone could say they don’t like The View...

(Really, The View? If I wanted to listen to all that yelling and talking over one another, I’d just go sit amongst a group of excited first-graders.)

If at any time you start getting a bad feeling, have an “out.”

  • Make plans for friends to call and check on you.
  • Make sure someone else knows where you are.
  • And know the right codes to get you out of a bad situation.

For those of you that are a bit nervous, check out some tips that were compiled by the CBC on finding love in your later years.

Related: How To Score Cheap Movie Tickets

Your turn

Have you met your significant other online? What website or app did you use?

Share in comments below!

Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links. We're letting you know because it's the right thing to do. Here’s a more detailed disclosure on how HTS makes money.


Money Beagle's picture

My experience is rather dated as I did my online dating back in the early 2000's. I distinctly remember using eHarmony, which I had to pay for, and some of the other services (Yahoo SIngles and Match primarly) which were free. On paper, the eHarmony gave me better matches, as in when I was matched with someone, I was like "Wow, this looks perfect" but in terms of who I actually matched up better with in person, I clicked much more with people from the free sites.

But two of my buddies who were also trying out online dating at the time are married to women that they met on eHarmony.

So you never really know, I guess!

February 16, 2018 @ 2:50 pm
Maria Weyman
Maria Weyman's picture

What looks great on paper doesn't always translate in person...but, sometimes it does! 

February 17, 2018 @ 12:14 pm

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