Dating costs are up—more people are paying for Tinder and Hinge anyway

Getty Images | Woman using a smartphone and enjoying coffee on the sofa.
Getty Images | Rgstudio

At a time when dating itself has gotten more expensive, along with almost everything else, thanks to inflation, it might be surprising to learn some of the most popular dating apps have seen an uptick in paying subscribers.

Match Group, which owns popular apps Tinder and Hinge, reported strong third quarter earnings due in part to a 2% increase in paying subscribers across brands. Tinder alone saw a 7% jump in paid users.

But while more paid subscribers is good news for the app's investors, the question remains whether paying for a dating app is a smart investment for singles. 

You can't buy love, but you can invest in your relationship search

Paying for a dating app won't make your perfect match magically appear. Plenty of other factors, like your personality and relationship goals, or even your location, could have an impact on your search for a partner.

But putting money behind your dating strategy might help those other areas. 

"A lot of the less-than-wonderful experiences on dating apps happen because people are not invested," Cora Boyd, a dating and relationships expert based in Seattle, tells CNBC Make It. Boyd works with clients and creates educational content to help people find love, and from what she's seen, clients who pay for dating apps report better outcomes, or at least have a more enjoyable experience. 

Someone who is just dabbling or who's not serious or is not going to follow up is not going to be paying for the platform.
Cora Boyd
dating and relationship expert

"The motivation for clients or anyone who's paying [for apps] is they're serious, and they are wanting to find a connection where there's mutual investment, they're looking for more of a committed relationship," Boyd says. "Someone who is just dabbling or who's not serious or is not going to follow up is not going to be paying for the platform."

Those using dating apps agree. Laura, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, says she's glad she signed up for a paid eHarmony subscription a couple of years ago. She paid a total of around $115 over six months.

"I thought that the idea of it was stupid at first, but my parents talked me into it and told me that it was worth it, and after the first week or so of being on the app, I felt the same way," Laura tells CNBC Make It.

On eHarmony, users essentially have to pay if they want to talk to potential matches, Laura says, so she found it more common to find other people looking for a long-term relationship compared with her experience using other apps like Tinder and Bumble.

"Overall, I'm really thankful for the dating app because it changed my outlook on dating," she says. 

Shelling out over $100 for a dating app was tough, especially since Laura didn't have income at the time due to the pandemic. Still, she says it paid off: "I met my boyfriend on eHarmony and we've been together for two years so far. I definitely think it's worth it."

The only downside: Having to finish paying through the end of the subscription, despite already finding her significant other. An annoying quirk, but also a testament to how quickly someone can find a relationship when they're more invested in the search.

Not perfect dates, but intentional ones

Using dating apps effectively may take a little financial investment, but part of the payoff can be saved time because people who pay for dating services tend to go on better dates, Boyd says, based on what she's seen.

"There's less noise, there's fewer people, and I think that creates a space where people don't feel as overwhelmed," Boyd says.

It's worth noting that each service has its own payment structure, many of which allow users to pay for access or additional features unavailable with free memberships.

A paid subscription on Hinge, for example, gives users unlimited likes to use and the ability to filter for a variety of traits, like height and political affiliation. The app also allows users to make one-time purchases, like the ability to "boost" your profile to be seen by more users for an hour.

Making a financial investment in an app helps users be more careful, in a sense, about how they're evaluating potential partners. "I do see them going on more intentionally selected dates and being more excited about those dates because there feels more like promise and potential in it," Boyd says.

Of course, anyone could decide to have this more intentional mindset as they're looking for dates and find a successful relationship without dating apps altogether. It's up to you to decide what's best for your budget and your relationship goals. 

But when you're looking for love, it seems that putting a little money on the line can be a powerful motivator.

Want to earn more and work less? Register for the free CNBC Make It: Your Money virtual event on Dec. 13 at 12 p.m. ET to learn from money masters like Kevin O'Leary how you can increase your earning power.

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