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Buying contact lenses and solutions online can save you both time and money if you know where to look and what to do.
The first step is to get an eye exam specifically for contacts. (Learn More) You will need a current, valid prescription written by an eye doctor to get contacts from a reputable online retailer.
You’ll need to know how to read and understand your prescription so you know what to buy. (Learn More) Once you know what you need, you can start to shop around to find it. You can then shop at different online retailers. (Learn More)
Do your research on the retailer before purchasing anything. With a little digging, you can learn about their reputation and policies. (Learn More) At this point, you are ready to place your online order. (Learn More)
To make things easier, order multiple sets of contacts and contact lens solution at once. Also, stick to brand specifications. (Learn More)
Step 1: Get an Eye Exam
To order contact lenses online, you will need a current and valid prescription with expiration dates set by the state you live in. Expiration dates are generally one or two years from the issue date. To get a prescription for contact lenses, you will need a comprehensive eye exam.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that you obtain an eye exam once a year if you wear contact lenses. Eyes can change with time and age, which can also change your prescription.
Contact lenses are medical devices. It is important to have your eyes checked and measured by a trained medical professional who can then write you a specific prescription for your eyes.
Beware of online eye exams, as these do not provide the same level of care and measurement that in-person exams do. An online exam does not evaluate fit directly and cannot help to determine what material of contact lens will be best for you. In-person eye exams can also help to diagnose potential eye and medical health problems.
Essentially, an online eye exam is never a substitute for an in-person exam.
Step 2: Understand Your Prescription
At the end of your contact lens fitting, the prescriber is required by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to give you a copy of your prescription even if you are not buying the lenses from them directly. Confirm you can read the prescription before leaving their office.
Your prescription for contact lenses should include the following information:
- Your name and the prescriber’s name
- Exam date
- Expiration date
- Recommended material of the contact lenses
- Power of the lenses, which will be in numbers with +/- signs
- Diameter of the lens, when applicable
- Base curve or designation
- Brand name and manufacturer
You will need a specific prescription for contact lenses. It is not the same as an eyeglass prescription since contact lenses sit directly on your eyes and must fit properly.
Step 3: Explore Different Retailers
There are numerous retailers selling contact lenses and solutions online, and each retailer may offer different things. You can save quite a bit of money by comparison shopping, as prices can vary greatly between retailers.
If you have vision insurance, check to see if they contract with specific providers. You may be able to cut costs or get rebates by going through certain retailers.
Some online stores will offer coupons, rebates, or even a subscription service that can save you money down the line. Stick to the specific brand name and manufacturer that your prescription calls for, as generic options may not always be equal.
Step 4: Do Your Research
When looking to purchase contact lenses and solutions online, price is not the only factor. Be aware of the retailer’s reputation and how reliable they are. Check customer reviews, and only buy from retailers who are rated highly.
Not all online retailers are reputable, and some even sell counterfeit contact lenses. You can check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to ensure that there have not been any complaints against the company before buying from them.
Check the company’s customer service and return policies as well as the security of their website. Ease of ordering, product selection, and payment options can also help you to decide on a retailer. You need to always have contact lenses and solution on hand, so timeliness of shipping can be a factor when ordering.
Step 5: Place Your Order
The final step in ordering contact lenses and solutions online is to place the order. Each website and company can have a slightly different process, but in general, they are going to ask for the following:
- Your name and address
- Prescription details
- Type and brand of contact or contact solution
- Number of contact sets
- Payment information
- Insurance details when applicable (not all retailers process insurance directly)
Online retailers are required to verify your prescription with your eye doctor.
Tips for Making the Process Easier
To make the process of buying contact and contact lens solution easier when shopping online, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- Stick to the brand prescribed. There are often many options. Shopping for your specific brand can narrow the field and ensure you get exactly what your eyes need.
- Use known retailers. If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.
- Consider how many contacts are in the box and if a subscription service can save you time and money in the long run.
- Check with your vision insurance to see if they work directly with specific companies.
- Talk to people you know about retailers they trust .
- Compare prices from different retailers to get the best deal.
- Plan your contact purchases in advance to ensure you always have contacts on hand.
- Order your contact lenses prior to the prescription’s expiration date.
Once you get your contacts, make sure they match your prescription. If anything appears to be damaged, contact the retailer immediately.
If your eyes feel irritated or itchy after wearing the contacts, they may not be the right fit or style for you. Check with your eye care professional right away. A different brand of contact lens may work better for you.
If your doctor recommends a different brand, contact the retailer. This is where good customer service comes in. A reputable company should be responsive and help you resolve the situation.
After you complete the process once, you’ll find that it is fairly easy to buy contacts and contact solution online. And it can save you a lot of time and money.
Buying Contact Lenses. (October 2020). U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Comprehensive Eye Exams. American Optometric Association (AOA).
The Contact Lens Rule: A Guide for Prescribers and Sellers. (June 2020). Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Contact Lens Prescription. (October 2020). U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Better Business Bureau (BBB). (2021). International Association of Better Business Bureaus.