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They’re free to use, but the psychology of gaming suggests that the more you use them, the more tempting it is to advance to the next level.

At what point in the completely nightmarish process of online dating does one decide that it’s worth spending money on making that experience slightly less terrible? But a free-for-all doesn’t pay, which is why if you’ve ever spent time on Bumble, Ok Cupid, Coffee Meets Bagel, or any of the other zillion apps promising to make us feel a little less lonely, you’ve likely seen ads for a mysterious paid version of the very same service.

The internet wrought popular paid services like in 1995, JDate in 1997, and e Harmony in 2000, but it wasn’t until Tinder invented the addictive “swipe” in 2013 that online dating became a true free-for-all.

A week-long trial of Bumble Boost cost her about $10, which led to a month-long package (about $25) and then a three-month package (about $50).

For Hannah, the biggest benefit was seeing who liked her before making the commitment to like them back.

She says having the freedom to use an app without fear of being exposed introduced her to people she wouldn’t have met if she hadn’t known they were into her first.

“I hooked up with two guys separately that were younger than my age range, so I would not have seen them if I had not paid for the app and saw that they liked me first,” she says.

“In my opinion, if you live in a big, densely populated city, [the upgrade] makes a big difference.

Though convenience is great, I don’t want to limit my dating or hookup prospects to just a couple blocks from my apartment.

“[It’s] been helpful in seeing who’s left in the dating pool, adjusting my expectations, and deciding what ‘trade-offs’ I’m willing to make,” she explains. “I definitely decided to match or message with some men I would’ve left-swiped on if I hadn’t known they were interested in me.

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