Why Is There So Much Shame in Paying For Dating Apps?

Sure, a whimsical meet-cute at a book store or on the side of the street sounds like a lovely way to meet someone. But in the year 2024, dating apps are proving to be a more realistic way of finding love — and most of the time, for free. Paid versions of the apps, however, became an option when Tinder and Hinge introduced premium subscriptions in 2015 and 2016. Originally, the paid options were marketed toward dating-app users as a way to boost singles’ chances at finding love. It’s worth noting that they might not be entirely built for that, though: a new class-action lawsuit alleges Match Group-owned apps like Tinder and Hinge violate consumer protection laws and are “purposefully addictive.”

Still, more people than you think are paying for premium memberships in an attempt to find love. According to a Tinder spokesperson, revenue from users with paid subscriptions increased in 2023. A spokesperson from Hinge confirmed that subscriptions grew 33 percent in 2023 compared to 2022. But still, why is no one talking about it?

“It’s uncomfortable that I’m on the apps in the first place, but it’s kind of embarrassing to admit that you’re investing in yourself [by paying for them too],” Mary, a 42-year-old guidance counselor who pays for premium versions of both Bumble and Hinge, tells POPSUGAR. But as Mary points out, people “put themselves first” by shelling out for trainers and financial planners without shame. So why should dating apps be any different?

Ahead, we take a look at why some people may choose to pay for a dating app, and why, according to experts, there is so much shame in doing so.

Why Pay For a Dating App?

Doling out your hard-earned cash for Hinge unlocks new features and pays off in more dates, the spokesperson from Hinge says. According to Hinge’s data, users who subscribe to Hinge+ ($33 per month), an upgraded version of the app that allows you to set advanced preferences and send an unlimited number of likes per day, go on twice as many dates as those who have the free membership. Subscribers to HingeX ($50 per month) have boosted profile visibility and access to enhanced match recommendations. They also go on three times as many dates as nonpaying users.

This tracks for Kaitlyn, a 28-year-old advertising sales representative who started using a paid subscription in early January. She found that paying for Hinge+ led to better conversations and date success as compared to the free version. “I feel like people are more open to having real conversations on the paid version, which is more intriguing to me because I’d rather go out on a date with somebody who’s actually holding a conversation,” she tells POPSUGAR. Kaitlyn also found that paying for Hinge+ led to a more refined and accurate search, noting that the free version often showed her matches who lived over 100 miles away, despite her location settings.

Another reason to pay? An enhanced vetting process. “Quite frankly, I decided to pay for Raya after I legitimately ran out of swipes on other apps like Bumble and Hinge,” Danielle, a 33-year-old publicist in Florida, tells POPSUGAR. Danielle says that when using the free versions of these apps, she’d often match with frauds and catfishers — something that, in her experience, doesn’t happen on Raya.

But despite the benefits of premium subscriptions, people are very, very shy to admit they pay for dating apps. Mary notes that even though she is literally investing in herself and doing what she thinks is best, there’s still some embarrassment.

Why Is There So Much Shame Paying For Dating Apps?

First, there’s internalized stigma. People are self-critical about paying for dating apps because there’s a cultural perception that dating apps have made it easier to find dates and romance, especially if your friends found love online, says Lily Womble, a feminist dating coach and the author of the upcoming book “Thank You, More Please.” This is true for Mary, who isn’t up-front about paying for the apps because it feeds into the mindset that if she hasn’t found a partner yet, she might not ever.

[P]aying for your dating life doesn’t make you weak, it means you’re taking action.

“The truth is that dating apps make dating more anxiety-producing and overwhelming for most, and for many singles, there’s an internalized stigma toward spending money on your dating life, as if you’re paying for something your friend found for free,” Womble explains. “Singles might have a fear that paying for dating apps signals that they’re broken or bad at dating in some way, though this couldn’t be further from the truth.”

People are also worried what others will think of them, Womble says. This fear of judgment can be heightened by friends or family who found love “quickly” or “easily,” she adds. As Kaitlyn points out, when you have to explain the process of dating apps or justify your actions, it seems like paying for the apps is a last resort or a sign of being desperate.

But here’s the thing. Instead of viewing paid dating apps in a negative or shameful light, Womble says to look at it as an added bonus that could lead to a more empowering app experience. “If you have the money to spend on an app upgrade, it can be a great high-quality experiment in your dating life to see if there’s a difference for you.” Give yourself permission to get support in the pursuit of what you want, because paying for your dating life doesn’t make you weak, it means you’re taking action, she adds.

To help reduce any shame you may feel, relationship expert Nicole Moore suggests embracing the digital era of convenience. Focus on paying for an app as a convenient way to date, just like you pay for an Uber as a convenient way to get from place to place, she explains. “See your online dating app with the same neutrality you see any other app that you use for convenience.”

It’s also helpful to focus on the potential positive outcome of a dating app. See yourself as someone who is worthy of a higher-caliber dating experience, says Moore. “Instead of thinking that you’re paying for a dating app because there’s something wrong with you and you need to do this to have a chance at finding love, start focusing on what a great match you are, and therefore, you deserve a great match too,” she explains. After all, people tend to pay for the things they find valuable, so it makes sense to put yourself into a pool of people who also value love, she adds.

All that said, if shame comes up, acknowledge it, then shift your focus to the future positive outcome you desire, Moore says. Because the truth is, once you’ve found an amazing person, you won’t care about how you met them. In the end, you’ll just be incredibly happy that you did.