If you’ve spent any amount of time in the world of online dating, you’ll know that hookup culture overpowers meaningful dating every time. But there comes a time in most people’s life where they want more than just a one-night fling.
For serious, meaningful connections, you need dating sites that work, and certain apps just won’t cut it anymore.
You need to be able to show off your personality and find someone with similar interests, not just upload selfies and hope someone who is judging you solely off your looks ends up being your soulmate.
If you’re looking for something long-term, there are plenty of dating sites that claim to generate true love. But a lot of these sites have expensive memberships and pricey premium features. Even the ones with free sign-ups love to trick you by getting you all set up before telling you it costs extra to send messages or see your matches.
If you have cash to spare, the price of love might be worth paying a membership fee, but if not, you need a free site that knows that true love is priceless.
These 8 apps and sites focus less on draining your bank account and more on filling your heart. They’re 100 percent free to join, use, match, and chat with prospective partners.
Of course, a couple of them feature premium options if you want to remove daily match limits or expand your options, but you don’t really need any of these extra features to still have a good shot at finding love without spending a penny.
Here are the best free dating sites for serious relationships.
1. Best Dating Site/App For Meaningful Connections: OkCupid
Pros: In-depth questionnaires, free messaging, able to view other users’ profiles, easy to use app, there’s a variety of eligible matches
Cons: Has a casual vibe, free sign-ups mean not everyone on the app is looking for something meaningful, anyone can send you a message regardless of being a match
Pricing: Free, but paid options are available in a month to month plan, as well as basic and premium: Basic: $11.99/1 month, Premium: $39.99/1 month
OkCupid focuses on building a meaningful connection with someone who shares the same views as you. It’s often considered quite a left-leaning app due to its emphasis on social justice, but this ensures you don’t end up on a date with someone who opposes every political view you have.
You get the chance to create a detailed profile that requires thought, instead of simply uploading your most attractive photos and writing a witty bio that gets you swipes.
With questions like, “Should the government require children to be vaccinated for preventable diseases?” featured among the matching quizzes, this site is all about getting deep, quick. The addition of 12 gender identities and 20 sexual orientations makes it a safer space for non-binary and queer individuals to find love while using the pronouns they prefer.
But politics isn’t the only matching factor here — OkCupid really gets to grips with your dating style via its questions so you’re matched with people looking for the same thing as you.
Plus, the app offers many perks without having to pay a cent. “OkCupid is a great way to dip your toes into online dating without breaking the bank. Almost everything is free!” says dating coach Erika Jordan.
2. Best Dating Site/App For The Business Savvy: The Inner Circle
Pros: Selective process for people who can sign up, safety measures in place to guarantee profiles are legit, Events section lets users find parties/get-togethers near their location
Cons: Long registration process, chatting feature unavailable on free version, can’t create a profile without using social media profiles
Pricing: Free, but premium membership is available for $5/week
If you’re career-driven and business-minded, casual dating and time-consuming swiping probably isn’t something you can fit into your hectic schedule. The Inner Circle matches young career-savvy singles to ambitious partners so you can become the next power couple in your city.
The site looks like one big advertisement for a polo club, with social networking and glamorous couples in black ties and cocktail dresses. If online dating isn’t entirely your thing, you can even attend the real-life events run by The Inner Circle.
The application process is rigorous, though, so take it as seriously as you would if you were applying to a job!
Adds Jordan, “The site comes with moderators that look through applicants to select only the most talented and attractive singles. Only 50% of applicants ever gain access to the site.”
Membership is not something that is given to just anyone, and there’s a waiting list to gain membership. You must link your Facebook and LinkedIn profile to be approved.
3. Best Dating Site/App For Women: Bumble
Pros: Unwanted messages limited by women initiating contact, 24-hour time limit gives initiative to communicate, safety prioritized by making sure potential partners and matches have social media accounts to prove they are legit
Cons: Only women can initiate the conversation, matches disappear after 24 hours, fake profiles do exist despite safety measures, limited options for male users
Pricing: Free, but premium membership is available for $17.99/week, $32.99/1 month, $66.99/3 months, $199.99/“lifetime” access
Unlike Tinder, Bumble strikes a balance between meaningless hookup and instant relationship by offering a dating service that is as serious or casual as you make it. The app addresses some of the gender imbalances we see across other dating sites by prioritizing the needs of women.
Women have to message first, which makes this a good choice for men who are tired of gender norms that expect them to make the first move. It’s also empowering for ladies who are unafraid of telling a guy what they want.
Because of this feature, the app filters out a lot of the types of guys that are perpetuating the one-night stand mentality seen on other apps, making it better for those who at least want a few good dates.
For love coach and past life reader Ronnie Ann Ryan, Bumble is the number one app she recommends for her clients: “As a love and dating coach, I recommend Bumble because over time my clients have had the best results with this app. Bumble was started by a woman who worked at Tinder and wanted a better app for women like herself. Plus, it has a BFF option to meet female friends.”
Once you match with someone, women have 24 hours to send the first message, which means things can move at a good pace… and there’s less time-wasters. But other than that, Bumble profiles do lack detail and personalization, so the matching process is, unfortunately, still quite heavily based on how you look in your pictures.
4. Best Dating Site/App For People Looking For A Slow Burn: Coffee Meets Bagel
Pros: Women outnumber men on the app, don’t need to spend a lot of time looking for matches, high response rate
Cons: Limited number of matches per day, user pool can be small if you aren’t located in a major city, matching based on specific criteria
Pricing: Free, but premium membership available for $35/1 month, $75/3 months, $120/6 months
This site is all about the slow-and-steady approach, making it a great dating option for those who get overwhelmed by dating.
Taking its name from the most chilled first date idea there is, Coffee Meets Bagel links you with millions of worldwide users in a totally non-intimidating way. You get just one match a day, so you really get to take your time deciding if or how you want to message them.
Once you’re matched, you even get a question prompt based on their profile, like “Ask Paul about his recent vacation in Europe?” or “Ask Susan about her job as a nurse?” so you don’t even have to come up with the first line.
If you’re feeling more outgoing, there’s always an option to find more matches via the Discover tab. You have 7 days to message your match so you keep the ball rolling without having the pressure of Bumble’s 24-hour limit.
Jordan agrees that this app is great for forming connections: “Coffee Meet Bagel attempts to eliminate small talk that goes nowhere with features that promote depth. You receive a small batch of potential matches known as bagels picked for you at noon every day.”
5. Best Dating Site/App For People Over 30: Plenty of Fish
Pros: Advanced search available, relationship chemistry predictor available, large user pool, unlimited messaging available with free membership, can see who has viewed your profile
Cons: Large number of fake profiles, competition is high, free membership means the experience is not ad-free, customer service handled solely online not telephone
Pricing: Free, but premium membership is available for $19.99/month, $51/4 months, $79.99/8 months
Established in 2005, Plenty of Fish has raked in over 90 million users looking to dive into love since its launch. It’s a no-nonsense approach to dating that prioritizes traditional relationship needs over the confusing no-strings-attached world of modern dating.
According to Jordan, this app might take a bit of time to get a bite, but it doesn’t mean you should give up. “The name Plenty of Fish pretty much covers it because there are plenty of profiles. A sea of catfish, but if you have the patience to go through them, you could find a diamond in the rough,” she says.
Profiles are lengthy and detailed, featuring questionnaires about psychology, relationship needs, sex, and hobbies. A single questionnaire contains around 100 questions, so you can have access to more information about your matches than some people get after months of dating.
Because the site is so detailed, it’s a popular choice for people over 30, divorcees, and single parents who aren’t in the mood to mess around. The only downside of the site is, since the site has been around for 15 years, it’s in serious need of an update.
But once you get past the outdated interface, the obvious bot accounts, and the matches that have been inactive for 10 years, you still have a good chance at finding love.
6. Best Dating Site/App For Queer Women: HER
Pros: Free unlimited messaging, large user base, ability to meet someone even without a premium membership, matches and users based on location and age, photos present on all profiles
Cons: No manual search available, must have social media accounts to sign up, frequent pop-ups asking if you want to switch to premium, app tends to lag
Pricing: Free, but premium membership is available for $14.99/1 month, $59.99/6 months, $89.99/1 year
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Since apps like Tinder can be filled with creepy men who fetishize queer women, the world of online dating is often disappointing for lesbian, bisexual and queer women.
HER is an app by LGBTQ women, for LGBTQ women that has amassed almost 5 million users since 2015. Last year, it revamped its minimalistic dating profiles to include more detailed questions about gender orientation, relationship preferences, hobbies, zodiac signs, dietary habits, and much more.
This is all in an effort to help you find a more worthwhile match that will last beyond a couple of casual dates.
Adds Jordan, “HER is basically Tinder for queer women. One of the best apps out there, although there isn’t much competition.”
The app is also filled with LGBTQ+ news stories and information about events in your area that will help you expand your circle. Even if you don’t find love on the app, it never hurts to make some like-minded friends who have had similar experiences to you.
7. Best Dating Site/App For Serious Relationships: Hinge
Pros: Easy to sign up and register, most users are looking for something serious, conversations and matches don’t expire, video calls available
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Cons: No background checks performed, free users only receive 10 matches per day, filter options are limited, skipped-over users can show up in your matches again
Pricing: Free, but premium membership is available for $29.99/1 month, $59.99/3 months, $89.99/6 months
Hinge labels itself as the free dating app that’s “designed to be deleted,” and works on the premise that no one looking for a serious relationship actually wants to be dating online.
“Hinge is pretty great because you can do a lot without paying. The profiles are of a higher quality and they include audio so you can hear how people talk before deciding if they are a match. Hinge is good for heterosexual and LGBT dating,” Jordan comments.
However, as Ryan points out, “Hinge seems to have a more serious-minded database of quality singles, but works best in bigger cities.”
Still, you fill your profile with personalized relationship needs and quirky prompts that really show off your personality. You can filter your matches by height, religion, ethnicity, drinking habits, and more.
You get to present yourself as seriously or hilariously as you want so that your matches get a sense of who they’re talking to. The algorithm works hard to only show you people whose profile matches yours, so you don’t waste time swiping through hundreds of profiles of people you’d never go for in real life.
Unlike a lot of other dating apps, you get to see who likes you and choose whether or not to message them, so it cuts through some of the messing about, waiting for a match.
8. Best Dating Site/App For Casual Romance: Happn
Pros: Easy to register and sign up, limited bots or fake accounts, matches based on location, messaging only available once users have mutually “matched,” vast filter choices
Cons: Lack of compatibility-based matching, dating pool is limited for rural areas, limited chatting options, only available in app so desktop users aren’t able to sign up
Pricing: Free, but premium membership is available for $24.99/1 month, $89.99/6 months, $119.99/1 year
Every good romance movie starts with an enviable meet-cute that would never happen in real life. They end up sitting together on a train, they both reach for the same order at a coffee shop, or they bump into one another with shopping carts at the grocery store.
In reality, we let moments like these slip by us every day because we’re way too awkward to strike up a romance with a stranger. Happn allows you to check out users who have crossed your path in a way that’s way less scary than slipping your number to a mysterious stranger.
If you keep seeing the same attractive person walking around your neighborhood, look for them on this app. It uses an approximate location to link with singles in your area and only shows where you’ve crossed paths, so you don’t have to worry about privacy.
The best part, according to Jordan? “You will not receive a message from someone you’re not interested in. Your location is not visible to other members.”
It’s great for busy people who want to connect with someone without spending hours hanging out in bars for the right person.
Alice Kelly is a senior news and entertainment editor for YourTango. Based out of Brooklyn, New York, her work covers all things social justice, pop culture, and human interest. Keep up with her on Twitter for more.