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If you’ve been using dating apps for more than a minute, you’ve probably noticed that most free services advertise paid upgrades that promise to transform the experience. Ranging from from $10 to $35 a month, the upgrades offer everything from showing your profile to hotter users to telling you when (or if) someone read your message.
Most daters aren’t paying to meet people. Less than three percent of the millions of online daters in the U.S. pay, according to financial data collected by loan company Earnest. But that hasn’t stopped the services from heavily marketing the advantages of upgrades, as they can significantly pad their bottom line. On Bumble, for example, you get asked to upgrade after swiping on just a few dozen profiles-regardless of how often you decline the offer.
To find out if upgrading is worth it, I talked to dating app makers about what their data shows and asked daters to share their personal upgrade experiences. What I learned is that while some lucky users get many more dates by paying-most likely because more people swipe right on them in the first place-more often paying for matches just isn’t worth it.
For some people, there are real benefits to upgrading. Men who pay on Coffee Meets Bagel, for example, have “a 43 percent higher number of connections (mutual likes) than non-payers,” said the dating app’s co-founder Dawoon Kang. She adds that the conversation length increases by 12 percent if you upgrade to the paid version for $35 a month.
Dating apps are always pushing you to upgrade to a paid version. Here are some offers from Coffee Meets Bagel, Tinder, and Bumble.
Kristie Colorado, a transportation planner in New York, says paying to upgrade her dating app has been worth it. The 27-year-old first started using free Tinder after a break up in college and upgraded to paid in 2016. “I started meeting people so much quicker compared to when I wasn’t paying for it,” she said. She estimates that she gets about five matches per day with Tinder Gold, which costs $15 a month, and has had numerous dates and a handful of a relationships as a result.
“People have called me desperate for paying to use a service that could be free,” she said. “But when I did the free version of Tinder, I usually got one or two matches a day, because it took so much longer to swipe through and wait for the guys to swipe back.”
But not everyone who opts for the paid version is satisfied with the results. Danny Soto, a 29-year-old tech support expert from Houston, says he’s spent around $250 on Plenty of Fish, OkCupid, and Tinder in the last ;s used the app to seek relationships, but has settled for hookups during times that he wasn’t ready for anything long term.
He stopped paying for the upgrades a few months ago, however, because he’s not looking for anything serious. “If you’re just looking for sex, paying isn’t worth it,” he said. “Paid sites and services can make things easier,” because you can see who already liked you, “but all of that is useless if you just come across as uninteresting to the other person.”
Sometimes upgrading to the paid version doesn’t help your dating game at all. “I only decided to upgrade this past month for a chance to meet guys when I go back home to Texas for a while,” said Liam Evans, a 21-year-old photography student in Toronto who is currently using Tinder Plus. “However, the amount of dates hasn’t really gone up since upgrading,” so he doesn’t plan on renewing his subscription when it expires in early July.
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