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As the largest online dating site in existence (15+ million active members, and over 50,000 new ones added every day), and a slick, easy-to-use interface, Match has everything we could ask for in a dating service - including a 10-day free trial period.
If you are new to Match, you can search their members for free. Simply select some basic search criteria (gender, age, location), select a username and password, and you can see who's available. If you want to do more, Match has a tiered membership. For a small subscription fee (starting at $16.99/month for 6 months) you add features such as sending and receiving emails, see who has viewed your profile, and block members from viewing you.
Setting up a profile is an easy process. You list pertinent information about yourself; age, height, marital status, body type, smoker, drinker, occupation, income, pets, and kids. Then you list your ideal wishes for a mate using the same criteria. Finally, you write a description about yourself for potential matches to read. Upload your picture (highly recommended) and you are on your way to finding a match.
The search functions are unlimited. The most utilized is the age, gender, and zip code search - but Match also offers searches by "MatchWords", profile types, reverse matches (people who are looking for profiles like yours), mutual matches, and much more. The advice center also offers ways to create a more efficient search. Match has thought of everything.
With the account settings, you're in total control of your profile. This allows you to block members, sign up for alerts (by email or pager), and a myriad of other options. The FAQ section is very insightful and answered all of our questions. Match even offers international searches; mobile match (which allows you to match via your cell phone), and online dating safety advice.
Match also offers an unprecedented 6-month guarantee. If you sign up for a 6-month subscription, and haven't found your true love at the end of that time, they'll give you another 6 months absolutely free. This offer is unmatched by any of their competition.
With the huge membership base, ease of use, and low price, Match earns our highest rating.
Instead of manually searching through millions of members, eHarmony approaches online dating differently. You first complete an in-depth questionairre covering all facets of a relationship. The result is a detailed personality profile which is shared with you, along with your compatible matches. These matches are determined based on "29 dimensions of compatibility" derived from the 35 years of clinical research of Dr. Warren, the founder of eHarmony.
The basics of the service, including the questionnaire, are free. If you want to take the next step and begin communicating with your matches, you purchase a membership. Memberships start as low as $28.95 / month (6 month subscription). This makes eHarmony one of the more expensive dating services in our review, but the additional cost can be a great time saver in weeding out inappropriate matches. One note, the monthly fee is billed in one installment unless you purchase the 12 month membership, then you have the option of billing in 3 installments. Eharmony also offers a risk-free 7 day trial membership to new members.
The questionnaire is very extensive and takes 30 minutes to an hour to complete. It's important to take your time and answer the questions truthfully, as your compatible matches will be based on your responses. Questions range from self descriptions, personal interests, important qualities, relationship styles, family relationships and general information. Upon completion you receive a personality profile about yourself and a compatibility profile with traits you would find appealing in a mate. Both provide very useful information that actually puts into words who you are and what type of person you are looking for.
By producing matches based on your compatibility profile, eHarmony eliminates 99.7% of people that are not right for you. This also means that you are only able to view the profiles of members that are deemed compatible - and therein lies the only potential downside of eHarmony. You can't search the member database yourself, it's done for you based on the answers to your questionnaire. The service also doesn't offer any alternative lifestyle options.
Still, for those interested in a serious relationship, and don't want to spend time browsing through long lists of potential dates, eHarmony provides a quick way to find people who are already compatible with you. This program receives high marks delivering quality over quantity and is among the best of dating services we reviewed.
Although one of the oldest internet dating services around, Spark (formerly American Singles) has a youthful style that appeals to many young professionals. The homepage encourages you to place a simple search by zip code, city, or telephone area code - this is the only service we reviewed that offers a search by telephone area code. The homepage also shows how many members are currently online.
Becoming a member is easy. The free membership entitles you to create a profile, post pictures and begin searching among millions of members to find the right one. Once you upgrade to a Premium membership you can send email, read and reply to all messages, instant message, chat, and post on message boards. The initial cost of a premium membership is $14.95 / month (5 month subscription).
Customer service is available by mail, email or a toll-free number with round the clock service.
This site is fun and easy and doesn't load you down with a ton of extras. Good membership base, an easy interface, and fun attitude give Spark a high score.
Like much of the competition, Matchmaker has a searchable database of millions of members. All you need to do is fill out a profile (which asks you to identify if you are looking for marriage, serious, casual or friendship), upload your picture and compose a little blurb about yourself that others will find intriguing. You are then a member able to search the database of over 2 million people for free.
To communicate with other members of Matchmaker you need to upgrade your free membership. By upgrading you will be able to search with advance features such as age, location, keywords, and over 100 other personal preferences. You will also be able to message with other members thru Instant Messaging, email or live chat 24 hours a day. Matchmaker also offers a Webzine and weekly newsletter that offers dating advice and other how-to's related to dating.
Customer service is available by email or mail only. The FAQ page is lacking information and could use some expansion. The service has special links for alternative lifestyles.
Although Matchmaker could benefit from a larger membership base, this capable service hits the mark with the generation "Y" target market.
FriendFinder is in some ways a little tacky. The homepage contains a simple search for singles in your area and lists features of the service such as blogs, an interactive magazine and chat rooms. It also has a ticker tape of the number of members online, the number of new photos that have been received this week, and the total number of active members (more than 3 million at the time of this review). One unique feature of FriendFinder is that the personal profiles are categorized by men, women, alternative lifestyles, pen pals and activity partners - which make browsing through profiles a little more efficient.
Creating an account is free and fairly painless. The free standard membership requires the usual personal information; once entered, you can send Instant Messages and have limited access to search and browse profiles. In addition to the free membership, Gold and Silver memberships are also available. Gold and Silver membership status grants you unlimited communication with other members, gives you a highlight profile in search results, lets you view member videos, view member poll results, email alerts, unlimited profile viewing, and faster technical support (within 12 hours instead of 2 days).
FriendFinder also enhances the experience by providing access to daily horoscopes, photo ratings, free e-greeting cards, and an e-Magazine.
Some information, such as pricing, is not easily found in the online material. In fact, only one reference was found in the help pages that premium membership costs as little as 25 cents a day. With so much competition in the dating service market, it would behoove them to provide as much information as possible for potential members.
The experience provided by FriendFinder is adequate, if lackluster. You can find services offering more options for the same price in our top-ranked selections.
Among online dating services, EliteSingles definitely conveys a more European feel, even within its American market-users may notice that the help "centre" is spelled in the traditionally British style. That comes as no surprise, given that the company began as a dating site in Berlin in 2008 and launched throughout Germany as eDarling in 2009. EliteSingles has active sites that currently serve the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa, as well as the United States.
Like most sites, EliteSingles gives prospective members the ability to create a free profile that allows them to see matches and receive messages at no cost. We also like their focus on the Five Factor Model Theory of personality traits, giving solid scientific reasoning to romantic matches made on the site rather than relying solely on users' preferences and self-reported characteristics. That testing is included with all free accounts as well.
EliteSingles offers paid memberships in the form of Premium and Premium Plus accounts. Pricing information is extremely obscure on the site-in fact, short of signing up for a free account or 3-day complimentary trial of Premium services, there is no mention of what membership actually costs. Given the transparency of most other dating sites, this is a huge drawback for singles who like to know upfront what their search for love may cost them from month to month!
The site does explain that both Premium and Premium Plus accounts allow members to have unlimited messaging access as well as the ability to view all photos posted by other users; the Plus level "increases partner suggestions by up to 20 matches per day", but there's no mention of how many matches are included at other levels of membership, or what additional benefits come with the Plus account.
Customer service can only be accessed by FAX or contact form online, which could also leave members with unanswered questions if they need help quickly. On the other hand, EliteSingles emphasizes their commitment to the safety and commitment of their members, manually checking each profile for authenticity as well as using more technologically-based means of verifying identity and security.
In general, EliteSingles seems to be an online dating service that may already be successful in other parts of the world, but their current site for US-based clients doesn't provide enough information to be confident that they're ready to make successful matches here.
Note: Great Expectations appears to no longer be in business.
Great Expectations comes up far short compared to the other services reviewed. With good name recognition, and tenure that pre-dates the internet, we definitely expected more.
Great Expectations has a different approach than the other dating services reviewed. First, you must live in an area that is serviced by a Great Expectations branch. (If there is not a location near you, then you are diverted to their on-line service). However, if you happen to live in one of their serviced areas, you fill out a quick application with your name, age, address, income, phone number and email. From there you are taken to another information gathering page covering what you are looking for in a mate and a few more details about yourself. The information is gathered and a representative from Great Expectations contacts you by phone for a face to face meeting where you complete the screening process. Once this is finally done, and you sign up for their service, you can search through thousands of members.
It's free to submit an application which will start the screening process. Great Expectations points out there is no obligation to submit the application. The word "obligation" implies that at some point there will be a fee but that information is not given on the website. This is important to remember; more on this later.
The website is very shallow on information. If you don't fill out the forms fast enough you are kicked out by the site and will need your user name and password to get back in. However, you don't select a username and password in the sign-up process so you have to call your local branch for assistance; available hours vary by location. Also, if you neglect to answer all the questions on the initial form, you will continually be returned to the top of the form. At this point you will have to go back to the home page and start from scratch because the form will not accept any information that you try to add. The whole event can be very frustrating and would easily be fixed with some minor programming.
No pricing information is given until you go in for your face-to-face interview. This consists of additional questions to complete your profile; but the real reason is to speak with you in person to convince you to sign up for the service. The price of their service varies by location but usually starts at $6,000 - yes, you read that right. As you can imagine, if this information was posted on their website, they would receive far fewer respondents. As it is, this price can be negotiated down by 50-80% or more - but that's still more than any other service in our review. For this price, you get a "professional" photo shoot, video greeting, and access to other members that have supposedly been pre-screened for criminal records.
Also, you'd better be prepared to sign up when you attend your initial interview. Typically you'll be advised that they can only offer you a negotiated deal for their services at that time. Once you leave their office, the price will resume to it's full $6,000 and you will forever be unable to reduce it. This kind of a hard sell puts undue pressure on the consumer and is frankly rather insulting. Oh, and once you sign the contract, you're locked in - there is no money-back grace period offered.
They also offer additional services, such as photo touch-ups, online access, and mailgrams - but be prepared, these cost hundreds of dollars each.
One appealing feature of Great Expectations is that they periodically host parties and events in your area exclusively for members, which can be lots of fun. Although these events also cost extra, they give you the opportunity to meet other members face-to-face without needing to talk with them first.
The idea of going through a screening process and attending member parties sounds great. However, the problematic website, high cost, relatively low membership, and hard-sell attitude make Great Expectations a great dating service - to stay away from.
Online Dating Services
Online dating has come of age. Today millions of people across the country - and the world - have found the advantages that online dating brings. From the comfort of your own home or apartment, you can browse through hundreds of pictures and profiles, strike up dozens of conversations, and date as often as you like.
To meet the needs of all these daters, many online dating services have been created. Each brings to the table a unique perspective, target audience, or feature set that appeals to various segments of the dating market.
Are you interested in a long-term relationship or a more casual affair? Do you want to browse through potential candidates or let the system choose your ideal matches? There are dating services that cater to these and all sorts of special needs.
When evaluating the different online dating services, there are certain factors you will want to consider. Some of these include:
TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best online dating services available today. We hope this information helps you start your next relationship!
Online Dating Tips
Meeting potential candidates at a dating website is far more effective and convenient than scouring the bars and night clubs week after week. Meeting singles online has many benefits including the amount of singles to choose from, the ability to learn important details about a person before you even talk, and the opportunity to preserve your privacy. Your approach with dating websites will be far more effective if you follow these tips:
A well written, honest profile that is upbeat is a great way to capture the attention of potential candidates that would make a good fit. Sign on regularly to look for communication from potential dates but make sure you aren't too quick to share personal information with those you meet online.
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