How Does Match Work

Online Dating

How Does Match Work? (5 Steps to Online Dating Success)

Amber Brooks

Written by: Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks

Amber Brooks is the Editor-in-Chief at DatingAdvice.com. When she was growing up, her family teased her for being "boy crazy," but she preferred to think of herself as a budding dating expert. As an English major in college, Amber honed her communication skills to write clearly, knowledgeably, and passionately about a variety of subjects. Now with over 1,600 lifestyle articles to her name, Amber brings her tireless wit and relatable experiences to DatingAdvice.com.

Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of journalism experience to ensure DatingAdvice articles and reports have been edited for overall clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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If you’re just getting into online dating, you may wonder about the ways that different platforms bring singles together. One of the most popular dating sites, Match.com has been around for decades. But like many other dating platforms, it isn’t clear right off the bat how Match works. 

If you’re wondering how to get started and what to expect from Match.com, fear not. We’ve got the full details on how to make the flagship site of the Match Group work for you.

Step One: Set Up a Dating Profile

The first step toward finding your new partner on Match is to create a profile. Fortunately, the Match profile setup is fairly easy. You can set up your basics in about 10 minutes, but if you want to be thorough, it may take a bit longer to find the perfect photo or write a unique bio. 

Most of the questions are fairly standard: age, marital status, location, and so on. You can also answer questions referring to your political views, your religious beliefs, and whether you have or want kids in the future. These are all straightforward, drop-down answers, and this helps Match set you up with like-minded people on the dating website and app.

★★★★★
Match.com 4.8/5.0

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4.8/5.0

Relationships: Friends, Dates, and Relationships

Match System: Browse by zip, age, appearance, more

Our Experts Say: “Match has facilitated the most dates and relationships of any dating site, and its large audience and high success rate make it our top review…” Full Review »

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You also get to specify some of the traits you’re looking for in your daily matches. What makes a person right for you? These are also all fairly standard questions, the kind of thing you’d encounter at a matchmaker or on just about any other site geared toward dating rather than hookups.

Where things may take a little longer is the short answer section. In addition to the essentials that the algorithm uses as the starting point for your matches, you can add details to your profile that other users will see. The “In Your Own Words” section gives you free rein to describe yourself, your perfect match, or both. 

Once you’ve set up your profile, it may take some time for it to be approved by the moderators at Match, but generally you can get down to the business of finding people pretty quickly. The moderation process helps prevent fake profiles and scammers from getting a foothold, so it’s worth the wait.

Step Two: Establish Match Criteria & Search for Dates

Once you have your profile set up and approved, you can start the matching process. Match uses algorithms to recommend both daily matches and to guide your searches for the right person to date, but the starting point is the criteria you set.

While you complete your profile, one of the basic tools Match uses to steer your matches is what characteristics you tell the dating site you’re looking for. After all, you probably have some idea of what you want in a partner! But things go a step further once you start playing with the settings and tools on the site.

Match.com logo

There are several different criteria you can set for your preferred candidates: age, location, interests, background and values, and lifestyle are some of the broad categories. Match also lets you set keywords in your profile, so you can search by those keywords. For example, if you want to date specifically within your faith, you can search by “Christian,” and include keywords that apply to your specific denomination. Or if you’re passionate about rock climbing, you can include keywords about that hobby in your match criteria and profiles that mention them will come up for you.

When it comes to searching, you have a few options for different types of search. The “Go” search is the most basic, the standard method that you can find on most dating sites. Filter your results by the different criteria, and see who’s available. 

Mutual Match uses the various factors you included in your profile, from your interests and beliefs to your keywords, to match you up with profiles that Match thinks you’ll respond to. As you go through these profiles and provide feedback, the algorithm refines your results.

Reverse Match provides you with the profiles of members based on how many of their preferences your profile features. Basically, Reverse Match shows you the people most likely to respond to you, rather than the people the Match algorithm thinks you’re most likely to respond to based on preferences.

Finally, Community Search serves up profiles based on the organizations and associations you have in common with other members. This one tends to turn up a smaller number of prospective matches, but it’s still a good idea to check it out from time to time. 

Once you’ve found solid matches, you can move on to making first contact.

Step Three: Send Likes, Private Messages, or a Video Chat

Match offers dynamic ways for members to get in touch with each other, but there are some restrictions. If you have a free account, you can send a wink or “like” profiles that Match serves up, but you won’t be able to send a private message or start a video chat with your prospective match. 

Paid memberships unlock all of the options for contacting a potential partner on Match. If you’re a free member, you can receive and reply to messages you get from a premium member, but you can’t directly message them or request a video chat.

Photo of a video date
Arranging a video date is a quick way to vet someone new.

Likes and winks are a good way to reach out to a prospective match without having to get your credit card out, but they’re limited. Match will inform the person you wink or “favorite” that you’ve taken the action, but it’s up to them to decide whether to send a message. Of course, since this is the easiest method of contact, most members get a lot of these notifications. So you might get lost in the noise.

A private message can function as an email or as a start of a one-on-one chat, depending on whether the other Match member is online when you send it. If your prospective match is online, you can get to chatting in real time right away, whether on the Match app or site. If you discover the person’s profile while they’re offline, the message will come up for them when they sign on.

Finally, you can request a Vibe Check, which is the Match answer to video chat. Vibe Check launched in 2020, as a response to Covid-19 restrictions, and is hugely popular. Once you’ve matched with another member, and begun chatting with them, a black video icon appears in the upper right of the chat window. Once you agree to the terms and conditions, put in your request and hopefully your prospective match will accept.

Of course, most of these communication options require a paid membership, but the premium account comes with a lot more than the ability to talk to whoever you want, whenever you want.

Step Four: Upgrade to a Premium Account for More Options

A free account on Match won’t make it impossible to find the person of your dreams, but with communication access limited, it is definitely harder. But premium Match membership comes with a lot more than just the option to send private messages to whoever you want on the dating site and app.

Match premium subscriptions boost your visibility in search results, and give you a guaranteed spot in Daily Matches, which helps increase the chances that you’ll find the partner you’re seeking. Other premium perks include:

  • Seeing who has viewed your dating profile
  • Message read receipts
  • Browsing incognito
  • Full, unlimited communication options

You can access some of the communication features on Match without paying for the full subscription cost. To make things easy on you, Match offers a specific communications credit. But if you’re going to pay anyway, there’s good reason to take out the credit card and go for the full experience.

Data compiled by Match suggests that premium members get the best results. And the dating site is so confident in the services it offers to premium Match members, that it has a built-in Match guarantee: If you don’t find love in six months, you get six months of premium membership for free. 

Given the track record Match has of bringing singles together, though, you’re probably not going to get that free six-month membership. 

Step Five: Join Millions of Happy Match Couples

Match has a pretty stellar record of bringing people together, and several surveys find that Match boasts one of the highest success rates across dating sites. Some surprising stats include the fact that since Match.com launched in 1995, the dating platform has been responsible for the birth of more than 1 million babies!

“I was on Match for approximately one month and had several conversations, but nothing worthwhile, until I came across the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen.” — Jordan, who met his wife on Match

While no dating platform can boast a 100% success rate, Match has solid numbers behind its methods, which is a big reason why our experts consistently recommend the platform to people looking for a serious relationship. Beyond Match.com itself, the Match Group network of sites boasts a pretty staggering number of success stories.

All in all, if you’re committed to finding the right person to spend the rest of your life with, Match is easy to use, and comes with strong guarantees that you’ll meet the most compatible partner out there for you. 

FAQs: Is Match Worth Paying For?

If you’re looking for a long-term relationship with the right person, Match is definitely worth paying for. The majority of Match users want to find someone for a serious relationship, rather than for a casual fling, so you’ll get matches that are looking for the same things you are. 

If you’re trolling the online dating world for casual sex partners, however, Match isn’t a good fit. Apart from the fact that most of the people you meet on the site or app won’t go along with something casual, there are a ton of other platforms that cater to casual flings and hookups. Most of the hookup sites and apps out there are even free to use, so you can save your money for something better if you don’t pay for Match.

How Do Match Events Work?

If you’re an extrovert who would rather meet people face to face than start things out online, Match Events are an excellent tool to take your online dating into the real world. Match hosts events across the US (and even in other countries where Match has a presence, like the UK), where singles can meet up and enjoy different activities.

★★★★★
Match.com 4.8/5.0

Our expert ratings are based on factors such as popularity, usability, value, and success rate of each site.

4.8/5.0

Relationships: Friends, Dates, and Relationships

Match System: Browse by zip, age, appearance, more

Our Experts Say: “Match is a popular choice for your area singles, having led to more dates, marriages and relationships than any other dating site…” Full Review »

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Match Events include tours to breweries and haunted houses, museum nights, singles nights at bars and pubs, events at zoos and botanical gardens, and more or less any other kind of activity where a group of adults can have some fun and meet people in a low-pressure environment. 

While Match tries to host events in as many locations as possible, bigger cities like New York City and San Francisco are more likely to have multiple events going on. Some Match users have given the events some mixed reviews, saying that they’re similar to speed dating and other kitschy singles events. The age range of participants also tends to be on the older side, so young adults have expressed disappointment with the events. But overall the members seem to like the locations and the opportunity to meet new people.

Can You Chat For Free on Match?

It is possible to chat for free on Match, but your options are limited unless you have a paid membership. Free members can reply to messages from premium members, which can be helpful. You can also contact anyone in your Top Picks without getting out a credit card. 

But if you want to contact people who aren’t in your Top Picks, or who don’t have a premium membership, you’ll have to shell out for the paid tier of membership yourself. You can still get another Match member’s attention through different channels, but a Like isn’t going to take you very far unless you can follow it up with a conversation.

Is Match Better Than Tinder?

It depends on what you’re looking for from a dating site. Match and Tinder have some key differences that make one a better choice than the other. The Match user base tends to be a bit older, on average, and the membership on Match tends to be looking for a serious relationship rather than a casual date. 

Tinder is a bit more free and loose, and it throws singles into a fast-paced swiping and matching process.

Screenshots of Tinder
Tinder is a much more casual dating space than its predecessor Match.

Where Match looks for compatibility, Tinder gives you a few pictures and a stripped-down bio to base decisions on. The user base for Tinder is somewhat younger, and most of the members of the dating app are looking for something casual, whether that’s a hookup, friends with benefits, or just a date for Friday night. 

Tinder is great if you’re interested in finding a quick romance or sexual fix, and if you like the ease of swiping left or right to organize your dating pool. Match is the better choice if you’re not as swipe-happy, and if you want to find someone you’re more likely to be compatible with over a longer period of time.

What Are Some Dating Sites That Work Similarly to Match?

There are several sites and apps that cater to people looking for something more serious, that match people based on a personality inventory and an algorithm. One of the most popular sites for long-term love is eharmony

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eharmony 4.7/5.0

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4.7/5.0

Relationships: Casual Dates, Deep Relationships

Match System: Personality test suggests matches

Our Experts Say: “Accounting for 2% of U.S. marriages, eharmony’s compatibility-based system and commitment-minded user base are ideal for those seeking a serious relationship…” Full Review »

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Dedicated to the happily-ever-after, eharmony launched in 2000 to strengthen marriage and uses a fairly lengthy personality test to determine several areas of compatibility. It has become one of the most popular ways for serious daters over 30 to meet their ideal match — and the eharmony free membership includes some communication and icebreaker quizzes to kick things off!

★★★★★
EliteSingles.com 4.7/5.0

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4.7/5.0

Relationships: Serious Relationships

Match System: Search, Receive Partner Suggestions

Our Experts Say: “EliteSingles is a leading dating site just for busy, single professionals. More than 80% of members have earned a college degree, and most are looking for a serious commitment…” Full Review »

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Elite Singles uses personality factors to bring members together, offering daily matches based on location and compatibility. Unlike Christian Mingle and eharmony, Elite Singles doesn’t have any ties to religion at all. The site and app instead rely on a strict screening process to find successful, highly educated professionals and bring them together.

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ChristianMingle 4.4/5.0

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4.4/5.0

Relationships: Dates and Serious Relationships

Match System: Search by gender, age, education, more

Our Experts Say: “ChristianMingle is among the largest dating sites in the industry that only caters to single Christian men and women, and the site has some of the best search filters and safety features…” Full Review »

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Another choice for serious dating is Christian Mingle. Like many premium dating sites, Christian Mingle caters to singles looking for long-term relationships. The big difference is that Christian Mingle is a faith-driven platform that helps Christians of different denominations find each other and build a life-long commitment. 

ChristianMingle was designed by the same team that created JDate, a top-performing Jewish dating site, so you can trust the experience and heart behind the online dating tools.

Final Thoughts: Match Creates Space for Real Conversations

If you’re just getting started with online dating, finding out how Match works can give you a good indication of which platform will best suit your needs. Match is a great option for singles who want to find something serious and who are willing to pay a reasonable rate to connect with people who are committed to a serious relationship as opposed to a more casual dating situationship.

The variety of communication options Match offers for paid members makes it easy to get into a real conversation with someone long before you meet in person, no matter your comfort level. Find out why Match has one of the strongest success rates of any dating site or dating app out there!

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