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6 Best Places to Buy Contact Lenses Online (and Save Money) – CNET

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Even with vision benefits, contact lenses can cost you a pretty penny. If you’re looking for affordable contact lenses, you likely know that your eye doctor or local optical shop is probably the most expensive way to buy them. More often than not, you’ll be paying full retail price for your lenses. Instead, you’ll want to buy contact lenses online to get the best deals.

There are many online stores that offer every contact lens brand you can think of, often at discounted prices or with rebates. We’ve rounded up some of the best places to buy contacts online below. I wouldn’t say that any one of them is better than the other, but by shopping around, you can get the most savings and find a store that lets you use your insurance to help offset the cost.

So, ready to ditch the frames and dive in? Here is where you can find contacts at an affordable price.

Best places to buy contact lenses online

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Shipping Info

$10, takes 5-7 business days

Return Policy

30-day free return

Insurance Accepted

Considered out-of-network by most providers

Number of Contacts Brands

25

Lens.com‘s prices are often lower than other shops for prescription contact lenses. It has an impressive selection of brands — including Acuvue, Air Optix, Dailies and Biofinity Toric for astigmatism — plus it takes returns and covers the cost of shipping unopened boxes back. 

Lens.com is an out-of-network provider for vision insurance, so you can’t use your benefits to directly pay for your order. However, you can submit the receipt to your insurance company for reimbursement/ (Always check with your insurance company to see what it covers.)

Screenshot by Sarah Mitroff/CNET

Shipping Info

Free, takes 7-10 business days

Return Policy

Free 6-month return on unopened products

Insurance Accepted

Yes

Number of Contacts Brands

14

A popular source for cheap contact lenses among my fellow CNET editors is ContactsDirect, because it often sends out coupon codes to customers. It has a wide selection of lens type options, including multifocal lenses, colored contacts, soft contact lenses for dry eyes and toric lenses for astigmatism. 

ContactsDirect offers returns on products that were purchased within one year if your eye vision changes and you need a vision correction from your doctor. ContactsDirect (and 1800Contacts) also sells contact lens solution.

Accepts vision insurance.

Buying online contact lenses: Your guide

Buying contact lenses online is just as safe as buying them from your eye doctor, as you get the same lenses you’d find at the optical shop. The process requires a little extra effort than getting them from your eye doctor, but you’ll be rewarded with savings.

To get started, you’ll need your contact lens prescription (more on that below). Simply search for the brand and model of contacts from your prescription at any of the stores above to find your specific lenses. Disposable contacts are sold in boxes, and most online shops give you a deal if you buy a six or 12 month supply, rather than one box at a time. 

During the checkout process, you’ll enter your prescription information to select the correct lenses and then submit verification of your prescription. Most stores allow you to upload an image or PDF of your prescription, or you can opt for the company to contact your doctor to verify it. This process can take as little as a few minutes or up to a few days if the store contacts your doctor. Once that process is complete, your order will be finalized and cleared to ship directly to you.

Do you need a prescription to buy contacts online?

Yes. Contact lenses are medical devices that require a prescription for you to purchase them — either online or in person. Before you start shopping, you’ll first need to get an eye exam and contact lens prescription from your optician or optometrist. An eye doctor can help you determine the best prescription lenses for your specific needs, whether that’s daily contacts, soft lenses, hard lenses, lenses for astigmatism or multifocal lenses.

Your eye doctor will also help you decide which brand of contact lenses will work best for you, and your prescription will include the brand name. That means you cannot buy a different brand if you find a better deal, but you can request a new prescription for a specific brand, at your doctor’s discretion.

All of the stores on this list require a valid prescription to dispense your contact lenses, and they won’t ship your order without one. Keep in mind that most contact lens prescriptions are only valid for one to two years (depending on your eyes and age), so if your prescription is expired, you’ll need a new one to shop.

What’s the best place to buy contacts online?

With so many stores to choose from, how do you pick where to buy your contacts online? Here are some things to consider:

  • Price: Do some comparison shopping to figure out which store has the best price for your specific lenses. Prices can change often due to sales, promotions and manufacturer rebates, so the store that had the best deal last year might not have the lowest price now.
  • Return policy: Many of the stores above allow you to return unopened boxes of contacts if your prescription changes. Check the terms of the store you’re thinking of buying from to understand your options.
  • Insurance coverage: Some online contact lens stores allow you to pay through your vision insurance, some do not. If that’s important to you, look for shops that accept your benefits.

Is it expensive to buy contacts online?

Contact lenses are expensive, full stop. But you can save money by shopping online. 

Disposable contacts will cost you more money in the long run over a pair of glasses. For example, Acuvue Oasys, one of the most popular brand of soft lenses, average around $25 to $40 for a box of 12 lenses at the stores above. That box of 12 is enough for three months (one lens per eye, thrown away every two weeks). That adds up to around $160 per year for contacts.

The full retail price for a 12-pack of Acuvue Oasys is listed as $88.99 on Lenscrafters.com, so you stand to save quite a lot of money by shopping around online.

How to save money on contact lenses

Pro tip: Right after your contact lens exam, it’s almost always worth it to get a year’s supply of your current prescription. Regardless of whether you’re buying daily disposable contacts, monthly lenses or even multifocal contacts, buying in bulk will help you save money.

If your prescription changes sometime during that year, many of the retailers above will allow you to exchange unopened boxes with a new prescription. You don’t have much to lose by buying a full year supply. Though it can be a higher up-front cost, you’ll save money over buying one box at a time. 

More health and wellness recommendations

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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