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“That’s the real issue—how happy are people with their interactions on the dating sites,” says Scott Kominers, a lecturer in economics at Harvard University.

On a site like Ok Cupid anyone can send you a message, whereas on the free app Bumble or on Tinder or e Harmony, only people you are matched with can get in touch.

So a person who randomly sends out dozens of “hey” messages to would-be dates would have to pay a higher price to make contacts than someone who does it more selectively. Our survey suggests that 45 percent of online daters have tried multiple dating websites or apps.

In the meantime, the bottom line is that while some users think quality does come at a price, there are benefits to free dating services as well.

“If sending messages had a price or you could send only a fixed number per day, people you contact online would know you had to give up something to do so, which would incentivize better behavior,” he says.

Perhaps beyond just charging for messages, sites could adjust the price according to how high quality someone's engagement seems to be.

Online dating can be difficult — what with choosing the perfect profile photo, sending a charming first message, possibly facing rejection, and choosing a dating site or app that works for you.

But when you throw a hefty price tag into the mix, online dating can feel even more difficult.

On Elite Singles, all of the necessary features won’t cost you anything, including registration, browsing, and certain forms of communication.

Both kinds are popular, so you can’t go just by that.

In the 2016 Consumer Reports Online Dating Survey, more than 9,600 people who had used an online dating service in the last two years were asked which one they had joined.

Forty-eight percent said Match, a paid site, but Plenty Of Fish (free) and e Harmony (paid) tied for second most popular, with 23 percent apiece.

But in terms of overall satisfaction, our survey found that free dating sites actually score a touch better than paid ones, probably because they're a better value.

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