How Free Trials Work

Online Dating

How Free Trials Work in Online Dating

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 and relationship expert. As an English major at the University of Florida, Amber honed her communication skills to write clearly, knowledgeably, and passionately about a variety of subjects. Now with over 1,800 lifestyle articles to her name, Amber brings her tireless wit and relatable experiences to DatingAdvice.com. She has been quoted by the Washington Times, Cosmopolitan, The New York Post, and AskMen.

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Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of journalism experience to ensure DatingAdvice articles have been edited for overall clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement. She has worked at The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, The Gwinnett Daily News, and The Gainesville Sun covering lifestyle topics.

Reviewed by: Jon McCallister

Jon McCallister

Jon came to DatingAdvice in 2016 with more than 15 years of editorial experience behind him. He has experience editing, writing, and designing at numerous publications, including the Gainesville Sun. Jon enjoys researching emerging trends and seeking out the companies, organizations, and individuals making an impact in the modern world of dating. He excels at working closely with writers and editors to improve the quality of online content.

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Most dating sites and apps operate on a freemium model, which means it’s free to join the user base, but certain paid features require a subscription. 

On certain sites, you can get a free trial for either full membership or premium membership options to try the perks before you commit to paying. 

Trial offers grant you a set period of time to explore all of the benefits and perks that paid memberships bring, without having to put in your credit card details.

But it can be tricky figuring out if a free trial is worth it, and whether it’s a genuine offer made in good faith or a scam

Definition | Benefits | Limits | Tips | Is It Worth It?

What Is a Free Trial?

By understanding how free trials work and what to expect from the offer, you can decide whether a given site or app is worth exploring. Originally, free trial offers were a way to recruit new members to paid dating sites and apps. 

These sites and apps sometimes have steep membership fees, so the best way to convince potential members to sign up is to offer a free test period to see what the platform is all about. 

Usually, these trial periods last a few days, maybe a week, but some free trials can be as long as a month.

free trials offer a glimpse of membership perks

Over time, more online dating platforms shifted to a “freemium” membership model. This model made it free to sign up for the basic service but required a premium membership to access key features and tools. 

More sites and apps let you sign up for free these days, but free trials for premium membership allow users to test out what they’re missing, with the hope they’ll decide it’s worth the fee.

And although there are fewer purely paid online dating services out there, some do exist, and still offer short trial periods for potential users to see if the platform is a good fit before they sign up.

A Sneak Peak of Paid Features

Dating platforms lock different services and features behind a paywall, and free trials are a good way to gain temporary access to find out just how much of a difference those perks make. 

In fact, some dating sites and apps make it very difficult to use the platform if you don’t have a premium membership. 

The most common feature that a dating service will restrict is communication. Elite Singles is an example of a dating site that doesn’t allow any private messages unless you have a premium membership. 

Other platforms, like Match, allow limited contact opportunities — such as a limited number of daily messages for free users and free messages only between “Top Picks.”

Still, other sites and apps use other ways to restrict communication between basic members. Ashley Madison allows women to send unlimited messages for free, but men must pay to reply. 

Zoosk will allow free members to read and reply to messages, but only premium members can send a first message.

Zoosk logo

Having access to the chatting feature is the perk that most motivates users to spring for premium membership, but it’s not the only one. Some online dating platforms allow users to access core features like messaging for free, but provide flashy perks to premium members. 

For example, OkCupid allows premium members to browse incognito, see who’s been looking at their profiles, and boost their visibility.

Free trial offers give you the chance to sample the perks without having to pay a fee, which can help you decide not only whether to stick with premium, but also whether the platform itself is useful. 

How Free Trials Differ From Free Membership

The big difference between a free trial and a free membership is how long the offer lasts. By definition, free trials only last for so long. 

After all, the whole idea is to give potential users a taste of the high life and encourage them to pay for the perks in the future. 

Free memberships don’t tend to have a time limit, but other restrictions can come into play.

Free plans limit what you can do

The most common range for a free trial period is between one week and one month, and most premium dating sites and apps you’ll encounter will stick closer to a week. 

Some platforms offer even shorter trial offers — three days is a popular choice, but some online dating services only offer 24 hours of free access to premium perks.

Sites and dating apps that offer free basic membership won’t often give you access to all of the tools you need free of charge. Even famously free platforms like Tinder have stumbling blocks in place to encourage users to choose the premium options.

Basic members have to put up with ads and can only send and receive messages to other users after a mutual match occurs. 

It’s rare to find a completely free dating site or app that doesn’t restrict basic members in some way. 

OkCupid launched as a “forever free” dating platform, and while the site and app still allow unlimited messaging to all users, CEO Ariel Charytan spearheaded a small restriction to messaging on the site soon after taking the helm.

The Benefits of a Trial Period

Whether you’re considering a paid dating platform or upgrading your membership on a freemium-style dating platform, free trial periods give you the opportunity to make an informed decision. 

By checking out the bells and whistles a site or app offers paying members, you can see if it’s really worth the money you’ll be paying.

Since the trial period is completely free, it can be a cost-effective way to step up your online dating game. It’s no risk, and pretty much all reward, as long as you pay attention to the terms and conditions of the trial.

Low-Risk Entry to a New Swiping Scene

The biggest hurdle people tend to have when it comes to joining a paid dating site or upgrading their membership is the price tag. It’s hard to justify paying for a service when you’re not sure what you’re going to get from it. 

Low risk. High reward.

Free trials take away the risk factor of paying for something you might end up not using: You get to use it before you pay.

Lowering that risk level makes it less intimidating, so you can focus on finding more matches, reaching out to more people, and reaping the benefits of a new or expanded dating pool. 

You don’t have to wonder whether you’re getting your money’s worth, or try to do the math on how many dates you’re getting in exchange for your membership fee.

See If The Platform Is Right For You

Free trials also allow you to explore a dating app or site to see if the platform is the right fit. 

With the explosion of dating platforms that cater to different tastes and preferences, it can be hard to know the difference. The free trial gives you the chance to compare and contrast without having to pay any fees.

Choose wisely

For example, there are dozens of hookup sites, and each one has its own particular energy. 

Some are more focused on adult content, others cater to the kink or polyamory communities, and still others are erotic free-for-alls. Without trying them out, it’s hard to know which will suit your needs the best.

On the other end of the relationship spectrum, Match offers a seven-day free trial to try the unlimited communication perks that come with its premium membership. 

The trial gives you the chance not only to send unlimited messages but also to get some expert support in your dating journey. 

With that week of access, you’ll be able to easily tell whether Match offers the best chance to find the relationship you want.

Whether you’re testing out a higher membership tier on a free platform or trying a paid dating site or app, free trial offers let you delve deeper into who else is out there. You can reach out to more users and see what the overall vibe is like on the app or site. 

Cost-Effectiveness

No matter your financial situation, getting something for free is a big win. Whether you’re interested in finding a serious partner or simply exploring your options, free trials give you the opportunity to try something new without having to pay for it.

Join the fun for free

Of course, the goal of a free trial is to entice people to pay for the service. But that doesn’t stop people from signing up for the free trial, using it to the hilt, and then canceling any automatic payments before the trial ends.

Not all free trial offers have automatic billing. You can just go back to a basic membership.

Some budget-minded daters take things to the next level and jump from one service to another, using different email addresses and other details to take advantage of free offers. 

It’s not the most ethical approach, but it does underscore the potential benefits of trying a few different paid services before committing to the one that suits you the best.

The Limitations of Free Trials

Free trials tend to sound too good to be true, but the devil is in the details. Although free access to paid features and platforms can be a powerful tool in helping you get the most out of your online dating experience, there are some limitations to keep in mind. 

Because you’re accepting a trial, as opposed to a fully free membership, you have to accept that there are some restrictions. After all, the point is to give you just enough of a taste of the “high life” to get you to pay for the full experience. 

Although you’re likely to get the full run of the premium features, you will have a few limitations on how much of those features you can use while you’re on the trial period.

Time is limited and results aren't guaranteed

Even if there’s not a cap on how many messages you can send, or how many profile boosts you can use while you’re in a free trial period, all trials have a time restriction

The dating site or app will communicate the time limit when you sign up for the offer, but it can be hard to keep that limit in mind when you’re busy chatting up new people.

Free trials can be a great tool for exploring the premium experience an online dating platform has to offer. 

Understanding that you’re not getting the complete, full experience that paying users get is important. You’re only going to have those perks and features for a limited time, and you may not have full access to them during the trial.

Tips For Making The Most of Your Membership

Once you’ve decided to test out a new membership tier or new platform on a free trial basis, make sure you get the most of the time you have. 

Trial offers are usually very short, so you’ll want to explore as much as possible before your time runs out and you have to decide whether to continue your premium membership or not.

1. Set Clear Goals and Realistic Expectations

Understand that you have a limited amount of time to enjoy the perks of your premium membership before you have to make a decision to pay.

Set personal goals

Before you even start your free trial, you should decide on what you want to get from the benefits and features. What are your goals?

Since free trial offers are for a limited period of time, your expectations on what you will accomplish should be grounded in reality

It’s realistic to expect to make contact with new people, even to get a few dates. 

It’s a little less realistic to expect to establish a full relationship within a week’s time. 

Setting the right expectations and goals also means making plans for what to do when the trial ends if you decide not to move forward with premium access. 

It’s a good idea to have a backup method of staying in contact with potential partners, for example.

2. Explore All Available Features

Even if a particular perk or feature doesn’t seem like something you’d be interested in, it’s worth trying it out as long as it’s available. 

Try all the paid features you can.

These features exist for a reason, and they can help give you an edge in online dating whether it’s to boost the visibility of your online dating profile, get an audit of your profile from a dating expert, or send a Super Like.

But while exploring all of the tools your free trial gives you is important, be systematic about it. Take some time to learn what all of the tools are and how they’re supposed to work, and use them in a way to maximize their benefit. 

For example, use a visibility boost during a time of day when the most users are online, or send an enhanced private message when you know the other user is online.

3. Start Conversations While You Can

One of the most common features that a premium membership on a dating site or dating app provides is unlimited communication, so you should definitely use your free trial to maximize conversations. 

Message often to find a date.

Send chats and start conversations with as many likely prospects as you can while you have the window of opportunity. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should strike up dozens of conversations with everyone on the platform. Focus on communicating with potential partners who are compatible with your type.

Maybe mention that you have a free trial period in the chat so the person will have extra incentive to exchange contact information or ask you out more quickly.

4. Be Mindful of Expiration Dates

All good things come to an end, and free trials tend to highlight the fact that time flies. 

Time is limited

Make sure you understand how much time you have to test drive the premium features and tools, and plan your use of the free trial accordingly. 

Don’t sign up for a trial offer if you know you’re going to be too busy to explore the online dating platform in the next several days.

Set reminders on your phone for how much time you have left to explore the premium membership and stay in contact with potential matches before your access cuts out.

5. Read the Fine Print

Not all free trials operate the same, so be sure you understand the details before you accept the offer and get started. 

Read the Terms and Conditions

Some free trial offers will cut off your access once the trial is over, and give you the opportunity to put in your credit card information to start your formal membership at the premium level. 

Other free trial offers require credit card information up front and automatically bill you unless you cancel before the trial ends.

Automatic billing also means you may have a specific time frame by which to cancel, before the first charge goes through. 

Beyond any automatic charges, the fine print will also let you know whether there are exceptions or restrictions on what you’ll have access to — which are important to know about before you start. 

The devil is in the details and knowing what those are helps you avoid free trial offers that are less than perfectly ethical.

Are Free Trials Worth It?

Deciding whether free trials are worthwhile depends on a lot of factors. For some users, they can be more than a way to see what they’re missing. 

Some people test out the premium membership and find the benefits really are worth the fee and decide to continue as a premium member. 

Others find out that the base-level membership provides everything they need. For example, I met my husband on Hinge and never paid anything for the dating service.

Real Life Experiences & Testimonials

Although Reddit users complain about a lot of online dating platforms, especially in regards to the effectiveness of paid subscriptions, we found some success stories and testimonials in favor. 

Several users in this thread cited finding more dates and matches via premium subscriptions, and while most of the users in favor paid, the same benefits apply for free trials.

Quora user Nancy Freckles found love on Match, and specifically highlighted the premium membership package as helpful. 

She explained that after reactivating her account following a break, “I got several inquiries the first day — including someone who just wanted to tell me my freckles are pretty, and someone who suggested I consider moving to China to teach ESL.”

Match logo

“On day two, I received a message from a man who wrote in full sentences, asked me real questions about myself, and had similar interests. I was intrigued. After exchanging messages for a week, we decided to meet.”

Tatyanna King at Buzzfeed tested Bumble Premium for three months, and found it more than worth the price. The biggest benefits she mentioned—meaningful advanced filters, the Beeline tool, and Travel Mode—are all as useful in the short term as they are over the course of months. 

Testimonials on the success rates of dating sites like eharmony and Christian Mingle that offer premium memberships abound. But it’s hard to know whether those users found their success from premium features or basic memberships. 

What Happens Afterward

You can expect a few different outcomes when your free trial period ends. In spite of the added perks and features, you may prefer a basic membership or a free dating site or app. In that case, you can just let the trial expire and continue on your way.

You may also decide that the bells and whistles add something important to the online dating experience, and opt to pay for a more permanent premium membership. 

In that case, you should look into the cost of that membership more closely, and see if there are discounts available. For example, many platforms offer a lower price if you commit to being a premium member for a year versus a month.

Spend less per month by committing to a longer subscription.

If you need some time to think about it, make sure to check for automatic renewals or billing. If the dating app or site required credit card information at the start of your free trial, it’s a good sign that you’ll need to cancel your access to premium before you receive the first fee. 

Make sure you know in advance how that might play out and how to avoid getting charged if you’re not ready to take the plunge.

Give Your Wallet a Break & Sign Up For Free

Free trials allow you to explore and make an informed decision whether you’re considering a premium membership on a free dating service or want to check out a paid dating site with no risk. 

These offers provide a taste of what to expect from a more premium online dating experience without making you pay money for the privilege.

As long as you keep the limitations in mind and optimize your use of a free trial offer, you can get more out of your online dating experience without ever getting your credit card out. Take the plunge and see what perks await!