On Monday, Tinder launched Tinder Plus, a premium version of its matching service that includes a couple of new features. “Passport” will let travelers on Tinder set their location anywhere around the world so that, as the company puts it in a blog post, “you’re swiping before you arrive.” And another add-on, “rewind,” lets users undo their last swipe. “If you accidentally swiped left on someone you want to get to know,” Tinder explains, “they're no longer lost in the Tindersphere forever.” Tinder also plans to introduce advertising by the end of the month, which Plus members won’t have to see.
The first catch, of course, is that Tinder Plus costs money. The second is that the price you pay depends on your age.
Tinder plans to charge $9.99 a month for Plus to U.S. users who are younger than 30, and $19.99 a month to those who are 30 or older. In the U.K., the teens and most twentysomethings will pay £3.99 a month while those 28 and older will be charged £14.99 per month. A spokeswoman for Tinder told NPR that several months of testing showed that “these price points were adopted very well by certain age demographics.” She added that “younger users are just as excited about Tinder Plus, but are more budget constrained, and need a lower price to pull the trigger.”
In theory, this should be the main reasoning behind Tinder’s pricing tiers: Younger users presumably have less disposable income to throw around on a dating app than those in their late 20s and above. Economic studies partly bear this out. A recent paper from Federal Reserve researchers found that the “bulk of earnings growth” for men tends to occur during the ages of 25 and 35 (the blue line in this chart):
On the other hand, as Kevin Roose points out at Fusion, the move could also be seen as “the equivalent of Uber’s supply-and-demand surge pricing—as you get older on Tinder, your supply of available matches shrinks, so it should cost more to find them.” Because 30 is, you know, ancient.
So, will people pay up? In a note to clients last week, Morgan Stanley expressed its doubts that the dating service will ever see this happen. “Given the young age of the target demo and frequent unwillingness to pay monthly recurring fees for social services, we believe Tinder will not have much success monetizing with a high-cost recurring monthly subscription offering,” the firm wrote. This is all the more true when there are so many different dating apps on the market. Users who have hit their limits on Tinder can head over to Hinge or Coffee Meets Bagel.
What’s also possible is that Tinder doesn’t really expect many younger users to pay at all. That would certainly help to explain the sizable pricing jump between age cohorts. But in that case, why do it at all? Well, if Tinder can start getting young twentysomethings used to the idea that access to quality dating apps comes at a cost when you’re older, maybe it can prime those users to pay later. Should Tinder’s users age with it, that could add up to a lot of revenue in the future.
Correction, March 3, 2015: A credit on a chart in this post originally misspelled the last name of Federal Reserve researcher Fatih Karahan. The credit also misidentified one of the authors of the 2015 staff report; it was Serdar Ozkan, not Greg Kaplan.