The best (and worst) dating sites for people in the military

You have more options than barracks romance.

Between unit PT, improving your technical proficiency, and pounding Rip-Its to stay awake for your third safety stand-down of the week, who the hell has time for dating? Everyone, that’s who. As we learned from the self-aid, buddy-aid, corpsman-aid concept, it’s important to take care of yourself if you want to stay mission-ready. That means making sure you’re fulfilled outside of work, too. 

In the current climate of limited social interaction and safety precautions, it can be pretty tricky to tell who’s who behind the masks — and even harder to make a connection with them. It’s no wonder that dating sites are hitting their stride at the same time as all these interpersonal obstacles.

Using an online dating site can open up a whole new world of dating, whether you’re looking for some casual weekend fun or your forever soulmate. With this much potential in an app, it’s hard to imagine going back to the old days of cruising through life waiting to bump into someone at the right time.

Navigating all of this can be daunting––not to mention expensive––if you don’t know what you’re doing. Luckily, you have friends at Task & Purpose to do the legwork for you so you can jump right into the action with a dating site that’s right for you.

Get oriented

Before you step onto the battlefield that is the modern dating scene, you better get schooled up on what to expect. There are dozens of major dating sites available, but that doesn’t mean all of them are right for you. As always, Task & Purpose is here to help you make sense of it all, put your best foot forward, and find what you’re looking for.

What separates the good dating sites from the rest?

There are definitely some lousy dating sites you’ll want to avoid, but most aren’t necessarily good or bad –– they just might not be right for you.

Your first priority should be finding a dating site whose focus is on the type of relationship you’re looking for. Sites like Tinder and Plenty of Fish cater to casual dating and rely on large membership bases and high numbers of interactions. Others, like eHarmony and Hinge, take factors like religion and politics into account to help users find deep, lasting relationships. Make the most out of your experience by being honest with yourself about your goals and choose a dating site that fits. 

Each dating site’s features should also play a role in your decision-making. Are you looking for a free service or are you willing to pay for certain features? Do you prefer to learn about people through pictures or words? How much energy are you prepared to put into creating your own profile? Answering these questions will help you decide on the right dating site.

User experience is another important consideration. If you think you’ll get tired of rapid-fire swiping, apps like Tinder aren’t for you. If you’re a man who likes to make the first move or a woman who wants to be pursued, Bumble probably isn’t the best option. Gain an understanding of how each site works before committing to one.

Lastly, read the fine print before signing up for a membership with a dating site. Make sure you know what you’re getting for free, and what you’ll have to pay extra for. Understand the process to cancel your membership when the time comes.

There are lots of great dating sites out there, and it just comes down to picking the best one for you.

Why bother with a dating site?

The biggest advantage of using a dating site is the amount of time you’ll save compared to traditional dating. Forget about haunting the local bars or hoping to meet a beautiful stranger by chance. Dating sites are incredibly efficient at pairing you up with people you’re interested in. Some allow users to provide a surprising amount of detailed personal information so you can rule out deal-breakers and prioritize the people you find the most compatible. 

By their nature, dating sites also get you far more exposure than you’d get the old-fashioned way. Your profile can be seen by hundreds of potential matches––or more. To make the most of this, it’s critical to provide an accurate representation of yourself. Let potential matches make an informed decision about you to avoid surprises and conflict down the road. 

Accurate profiles and easy communication make it easy for everyone to filter prospective dates to find those with the best potential. Even if a given dating site doesn’t offer filters in the traditional sense, you’ll be able to assess profiles quickly and easily. Just don’t be too hasty. 

What are your dating site’s intentions?

The best (and worst) dating sites for people in the military

When you meet someone for a first date, it’s helpful to understand exactly what kind of relationship they’re looking for. The same goes for the dating site you chose. There are so many options available that just about anyone can find a dating site tailored to their relationship goals and personal preferences. 

Maybe you think a little casual dating would be fun, or maybe you’re laser-focused on a long-term relationship with someone in a specific career field. In either case, there’s someone out there for you––and there’s a dating site to help you find each other.

Casual dating

Some of the most popular dating sites cater to people interested in casual dating. These services prioritize quantity by making the process of finding, contacting, and meeting people quick and easy. Swipe left, swipe right, and keep on moving. This approach results in lots of social interaction, but decision-making tends to be superficial since there is a relatively small amount of information available on each person’s profile.

Casual dating sites are great for finding a date for the weekend, but long-term success is questionable.

Long-term relationships

Those of you looking for a more serious relationship will want to pick a dating site that takes a wide range of personal factors into account. Dating sites in this category might use information about your age, lifestyle, career, family aspirations, and personality to narrow down your dating prospects. Using this approach can be time-consuming and slow to develop, but you can expect better long-term results than you’d get from a more casual dating site.

Go ahead and invest in one of these dating sites if you’re ready to commit to a serious relationship, but don’t expect a perfect match overnight.

Niche relationships

If you have very specific preferences, it might be worth your time to narrow the field with a niche dating site. Some dating sites cater specifically to military audiences. Others help people of a certain religion find each other. Of course, who can forget the original Farmers Only ads that city folk just didn’t get?

Being this specific rules out a lot of potentially great matches, but sometimes you know what you want.

Risk and reward

Online dating sites make it incredibly easy to find compatible people without waiting to bump into someone by chance. This efficiency and broad opportunity have led to massive popularity. As with anything, there are a few drawbacks you need to be aware of. Before you sign over your personal information, read up on how to best protect yourself.

Spend your time dating, not searching

Can you imagine shopping without the internet? Not only can I make sure Home Depot has the tool I’m looking for before I leave the house, the website will tell me which aisle and bay it’s in so I don’t have to wander the store; and that’s assuming I don’t just opt for home delivery. The same goes for online dating. Rather than signing up for hang-gliding lessons in the hopes of meeting your adventurous soulmate, you can just check a few boxes and write a clever bio on your dating profile––much safer.

Once you find the right dating site, you can cut to the chase and start meeting people you’re genuinely interested in and have more time to spend with them. Of course, it always helps to be as honest as you’re comfortable with when you create your dating profile. Let people know what your intentions are from the beginning to avoid wasting their time and yours. That sounds a lot easier than getting a refund on unused hang-gliding lessons.

Catfishing is a very real threat, especially for people in the military

Brace yourself for some shocking information: not everything you see on the internet is real. Believe it or not, some people actually misrepresent themselves on dating sites; and I’m not just talking about profile pictures that are a few years old. Catfishing and other scams are something you need to watch out for to protect your personal information, finances, and operational security.

In a recent string of attacks, U.S. soldiers were scammed by online extortionists posing as single women. The profiles were actually being managed by prison inmates who exchanged illicit photos with the service members. An accomplice posing as a lawyer or angry father made contact to inform the soldiers that the girls they were receiving photos from were underage and charges would be pressed… unless, of course, they wanted to settle out of court by transferring money into an online bank account.

This kind of scam is expensive, not to mention the disastrous effects on your career and credit. While this kind of thing isn’t a reason to abstain from online dating, it is a strong incentive to be careful about the information you share. A little bit of caution goes a long way. Pay attention to warning signs and always exercise caution when meeting someone in person for the first time.

Read the fine print

Remember that dating sites are a service provided by a company. To use one, you’ll need to set up an account and agree to their terms. While many of the best sites are free to use, there are a lot of desirable features stashed behind a paywall. If there are certain aspects of a dating site that interest you more than others, do an apples-to-apples comparison to see which sites will give you those specific features for the least amount of money. Paying more doesn’t necessarily get you more.

As with anything you sign up for, you need to plan for the day you no longer want to subscribe (and with a dating site, you might be hoping that comes sooner than later). Most sites take this into account and make canceling your account quick and painless. Others rely on maintaining a large user base and make it very difficult to unsubscribe. That’s pretty shady if you ask me, but it happens and you’ve come to the right place to make sense of what each platform offers.

This should go without saying, but remember that deleting an app doesn’t delete your account or terminate a paid subscription.

Pro tips on choosing a dating site

Now that you know what’s what in the world of dating sites, let’s take a minute to talk about you. Getting your thoughts organized will help you channel your energy in a productive direction and allow you to get the most out of your online dating. Here’s what you need to do to pick the right dating site and set up your profile.

  • Be honest with yourself about what you’re looking for. Looking for a weekend fling? That’s fine, just be open about your intentions. The same goes for those of you looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right; let people know you’re serious so they can make an informed decision, too. This doesn’t just apply to your profile, either. Choose a dating site that caters to your relationship goals.
  • Don’t settle. There are enough quality dating sites out there that you don’t have to lower your standards or jump on the latest trend. Put this guide to use and find a dating site that was created with you in mind. Take advantage of free options but be willing to shell out a few bucks for the features you really want.
  • Pay attention to specific features. Once you’ve narrowed your decision down to a few dating sites, dive into specific features. Are you comfortable sharing more personal information to potentially get a better match? Is there a price difference in the paid features that interest you? Is there a specific length of subscription you’re looking for? A little extra homework at the beginning will pay off in the long run.
  • Ask around. As helpful as we try to be, there’s still value in the first-hand experiences of people you know. It’s possible that your geographic area might be better suited to one dating site over another. Ask your friends what sites they’ve used, but remember to consider their specific goals and priorities. What worked great for someone else may not be best for you. 

Dating sites worth exploring

Now that you know the basics, let’s take a look at some of the most popular dating sites available. This guide will help you compare and contrast the features, prices, and reviews of each dating site to help you make an educated investment in your future love life. 

Most of these options are solid, some are not. Stay in your lane as far as your dating intentions are concerned, and you’re more likely to have success.

Bumble

military dating sites

Price: Free, with premium paid membership available

App store ratings: 880,000+

App store stars: 4.2

Every dating site tried to offer a unique selling proposition to earn your business. Bumble’s approach requires women to make the first move. This is great for outgoing women and patient men. Once that takes place, a man has 24 hours to respond. Users can communicate with messaging and video chats. A desktop version is available. Privacy features tend to be better than most. Bumble profiles aren’t the most detailed, but the service does prompt users to read all the information someone provides before making a decision on them.

Bumble is free to use, but you will have the opportunity to buy additional features to express extra interest in someone or reopen an expired connection. This can be as affordable as $1.99 for a single Bumble Token or $24.99 for month-long access.

eHarmony

military dating sites

Price: $65.90 per month for six months, $45.90 per month for 1one year, or $35.90 per month for two years

App store ratings: 11,000+

App store stars: 4.0

Those of you old enough to remember the early days of online dating will remember that eHarmony is one of the true OGs. Unlike most services, there is no free version of eHarmony so be prepared to fork over a hefty chunk of change every month for a subscription. Naturally, the monthly cost goes down as the length of the subscription increases. This option is known for its detailed profiles and sophisticated method of matchmaking, which is based on a lengthy personality test. When you set up your profile, remember that honesty is the best policy. The cost and time commitment required to use this service make it a solid choice for users looking for long-term love; it definitely isn’t for anyone chasing a bit of casual dating. Those of you who are over 30 will likely find the membership more in line with what you’re looking for.

All eHarmony memberships cost money ranging from $35.90 per month to $65.90 per month, depending on your contract length. Since the site recommends matches, there’s no searching or swiping. That could be a welcome relief or feel restrictive; it depends on your appetite for doing the legwork of dating.

Elite Singles

military dating sites

Price: $59.95 for one month, $57.95 per month for three months, $44.95 per month for six months

App store ratings: 17,000+

App store stars: 3.1

Elite Singles is aimed squarely at professionals who care as much about their career as their love life. In addition to basic personal information, profiles include information about a user’s job, salary, and college degree. This might seem superficial and unrelatable to some, but there are people who are willing to narrow the field to find someone who shares their career aspirations. Expect to answer prompts about how you’d react to various real-world scenarios to determine your compatibility with a potential match. That’s a clever test because it would be awful to get into a serious relationship before realizing that your significant other gets out of their seat and blocks the damn aisle as soon as their flight lands.

This approach will definitely alienate the majority of people looking for a dating site, and it’s a pretty tough sell at a higher price than eHarmony. There’s also something to be said about a group of people who describe their identity as “elite”––they’re probably a bunch of blue falcons.

Grindr

military dating sites

Price: Free, with premium paid membership available

App store ratings: 12,000+

App store stars: 4.1

Fellas, this one’s for you. Grindr allows men to create a profile and provide basic information in addition to more lighthearted things like their preferred “tribe,” or type. The service also allows users to specify what type of relationship they’re looking for, so you can make your intentions known from the start. In addition to being the original (and still leading) dating site for gay men, Grindr has long been praised for its user-friendly interface and intuitive mobile app. Users can search by personality traits or geographic location, and the large user base results in a high likelihood of finding who you’re looking for. If there are criticisms to be made, it’s that profiles are relatively superficial and the free version involves a lot of ads. Expect to pay up for advanced features and an ad-free experience.

At the end of the day, Grindr is the leading men’s-only dating site for a reason. It has its drawbacks (especially the free version), but the popularity and ease of use might make it worth your consideration. 

Her

military dating sites

Price: Free, with premium paid membership available

App store ratings: 20,000+

App store stars: 4.3

Her advertises itself as a lesbian dating service for women, by women. Signing up is painless and can be linked to your social media accounts. Start with the free version, then upgrade to paid features if you think they’re worth the money. With no search function, matches are made by swiping and you’ll have to pay to see who’s liked your profile. Compared to some of the other services available, the paid options are fairly affordable. Some users have expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of depth in Her profiles. Match selection is often reliant on superficial qualities. The user base also tends to be very young, so 30-somethings and anyone older might have a hard time on this dating site.

It would be great to see some more advanced features from this service, especially considering what’s available elsewhere. Her has also had some rough press in the past, when overzealous profile purging left some users feeling burned (and you can’t blame them). Good thing there’s a free option to test the waters.

Hinge

military dating sites

Price: Free, with premium paid membership available

App store ratings: 483,000+

App store stars: 4.5

If there’s a happy medium between “tequila shots?” and “hello, stranger, will you marry me?” it’s Hinge. This dating site is fun and easy to use, but it lets users share more in-depth personal information than most of the alternatives without feeling like a digital version of proper civilian attire. The price is right and feels like a sweet spot between commitment-free unpaid services and high-end memberships. Clever prompts provide creative ways to express yourself and find people who share your sense of humor. You might not expect manatee facts to land you a spouse, but one person I know tried that tactic and it damn sure worked for her. On the downside, there’s no desktop version and the app doesn’t currently offer a video chat feature.

Hinge has a reputation for being one of the classier dating sites that’s still playful and light-hearted. It’s a contender for those of you who have outgrown Tinder but aren’t ready for eHarmony quite yet.  

Military Cupid

military dating sites

Price: Free, with premium paid membership available

App store ratings: 10,000+

App store stars: 4.4

Dating sites cater to all kinds of people based on age, religion, occupation, and who knows what else, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to find one designed for military types, too. Most of the site’s members are civilian women in search of a man in uniform, so I guess some of you could consider this a target-rich environment. People who use Military Cupid tend to fall in the 25-45 age bracket. The site’s interface is dated and noticeably less user-friendly than most of the competition. Creating a profile is free but certain perks will cost you. Gold and Platinum memberships are priced awfully high if you ask me.

I get the concept behind Military Cupid, but something about this feels like a safety stand-down in the making. Yes, anyone you get into a committed relationship with needs to be comfortable with the sacrifices and challenges that go along with military service, but the idea of signing up to meet people who will only consider dating someone in the military doesn’t sit well with me. There’s more to you than Tricare.

OK Cupid

military dating sites

Price: Free, with premium paid membership available

App store ratings: 197,000+

App store stars: 4.3

OK Cupid has a mid-sized membership base, but it offers big value. Most of the features you’d want are included in the free membership, and users have the ability to pack a lot of information into their profiles. OK Cupid’s match-making approach uses the information you provide to suggest people they think are most compatible with you. The basis for that assessment is also shared with you, so you can see an overall compatibility score and dig into the personality traits that contributed to it. That’s a handy feature as long as you aren’t prone to over-analyzing things. Don’t forget to give people a chance to make an impression in-person, too.

Unlike Tinder’s hallmark swiping and Military Cupid’s focus on service members, OK Cupid doesn’t really have a gimmick. This is just a well-built dating service that provides lots of information. The low cost of entry and available data (some free, some paid) makes OK Cupid a viable alternative to the more mainstream dating sites. 

Plenty of Fish

military dating sites

Price: Free, with premium paid membership available

App store ratings: 1,200,000+

App store stars: 4.2

While other dating sites focus on compatibility scores and intricate profiles, Plenty of Fish takes a more-is-better approach to dating. A massive user base and fast selection process makes it almost too easy to sift through dozens of potential dates in no time. Ease of use is the name of the game here. Signing up is free, creating a profile is easy, and users get unlimited messaging without paying extra. That sounds like a good deal, but it also results in more spam than you’d receive on other sites since people tend to play the numbers rather than investing time in individuals. During my time in San Diego, I knew two Plenty of Fish users who drew a line on a map of the city to avoid dating the same people; that’s the kind of operational tempo we’re talking about. 

Unlike signing up, canceling your membership can be tricky. The skeptic in me suspects that’s because the site’s success relies on a huge number of active users, so they have an incentive to keep you around. If casual dating is what you’re looking for, maybe Plenty of Fish is an option. For many of you, the fast pace and low commitment might not be a great fit. 

Zoosk

military dating sites

Price: Free, with premium paid membership available

App store ratings: 70,000+

App store stars: 4.3

Sometimes, being in the military means you get sent to awesome locations and meet all kinds of incredible people. Other times, it means you suffer your ass off in Twentynine Palms or some frozen wasteland until you completely forget how to ask someone out. Zoosk opens the door to more than 40 million users with no geographic restrictions. Finally, you can meet someone in another city before buying a plane ticket and obsessively checking your phone to see who’s nearby. With more than 80 countries represented, you can even plan ahead for an OCONUS duty station. Many users also appreciate Zoosk’s nearly-even split between men and women, which is a departure from the typically heavy male user base of other dating sites.

Unfortunately, Zoosk has earned a bit of a reputation for having a large number of inactive profiles. It’s not without its pitfalls but might be a worthwhile option for people looking for a middle ground between hookups and marriage. The international appeal itself makes this worth a look for service members. 

FAQs about picking the right dating site

More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.

Q: How much does it cost to use a dating site?

A: Most dating sites are free, and offer paid upgrades to access premium features. These additional capabilities can cost a few dollars a month or significantly more, depending on the site and level of subscription. This is a great option for those of you interested in dipping your toe into the dating pool without making too much of a commitment upfront.

Other dating sites always require paid membership. This option is generally the most expensive way to go, but it also gets you access to more advanced filters and algorithms to help you find a lasting relationship. If you’re serious about finding a long-term match, this might be the approach for you.

Q: How do dating sites work?

A: Dating sites work by connecting people with potential matches, but they go about this in different ways. Your first step will be creating a personal profile. Some sites allow for very little information beyond a photo and a few bullet points, while others let you include detailed personal information to help identify strong matches and deal-breakers early.

Beyond that, it really depends on which service you choose. Some require mutual matching, some let you make the first move, and some only allow one person to initiate contact. Once you get in touch with someone, you can use an in-app chat feature to communicate and arrange a virtual or in-person date.

Q: Are dating sites safe?

A: Dating sites survive on positive user experiences, so most of them take safety very seriously. That being said, you’re ultimately responsible for your own safety so play it smart any time you meet someone for the first time and be mindful about how much personal information you choose to share. 

There have been a few high-profile scams that took advantage of dating sites, so it doesn’t hurt to stay up-to-date on the types of techniques con artists use and take steps to protect yourself.

Q: What if I’m not happy with the site I chose?

A: Odds are, you’ll be very satisfied with your chosen dating site as long as you do your homework and take the process seriously. If you’re not, you always have the option to cancel the service and move on. Just remember that you may not get all of your money back if you paid in advance, and some services are better than others about making it easy to cut ties.

Most of the better services offer some kind of guarantee. If this is important to you, check to see if there is some kind of language in the terms of agreement that protects users who aren’t satisfied.

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