TIME Stamped
Shopping
Advertiser Disclosure

The Best Places to Buy Contacts Online: Our Top Recommendations

Best Places To Buy Contacts Online
iStock

Our evaluations and opinions are not influenced by our advertising relationships, but we may earn a commission from our partners’ links. This content is created independently from TIME’s editorial staff. Learn more about it.

Updated December 28, 2023

Finding the best places to buy contacts online is not only a matter of personal interest for me—considering I’ve had to wear them for a few decades now—but also to the millions of other contact lens wearers out there who depend on them for daily or occasional use.

Ordering contacts has come a long way: Gone are the days of walking into the eye doctor’s office in-person, placing an order, then waiting days or weeks for them to arrive. Ordering online is not only a convenient alternative now, but one where consumers have a wide range of choices both in retailers and lens selection. So if you’re planning ahead and stocking your contact lens supply, or, like me, waiting until your last pair is getting past its prime, it’s helpful to know the key differences with the most popular places to buy contacts online.

How to shop for contacts online

Shopping for contacts online is quite different from other eye-related purchases, such as buying prescription glasses or sunglasses, because you likely already have a prescription in-hand, and you may even be getting dangerously low on your supply, getting into a time crunch.

Unlike glasses and sunglasses, contact lenses are brand-specific, based on what your doctor prescribed for your specific eye needs. Before you start your online search, it’s helpful to have the following information nearby to limit delays with your order:

Insurance information

If you have a vision benefit or insurance plan, go ahead and locate the provider information and any other plan details. It’s wise to double check any benefits you have remaining for the year, so you’re not surprised when it’s time for checkout.

FSA/HSA eligibility

If you have access to a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA), then verify the amount of funds eligible for use, if you plan on using this to cover contact lens costs.

Prescription information

Having your prescription information in hand can speed up the process of ordering, so you can enter it when you order your contacts. If your prescription is nowhere to be found, most places will contact your eye doctor’s office for you, but it will likely add more days to the process.

Factors to consider when buying contacts online

What brand did my eye doctor prescribe?

With most purchases you make in life, you have your choice of brands—glasses, breakfast cereal, perfume, etc. Contact lenses are different, however, because your doctor prescribes the brand based on your individual eye needs. Certain brands may be better suited to your eyes, such as with breathability or the presence of an astigmatism. If you have questions about the brand your eye doctor has prescribed, then contact their office regarding the recommendation.

What is my budget?

Not only is the price considerably different between a six-month and 12-month supply of contacts, but the prices vary from brand to brand, style to style. Overall, it’s likely less expensive to order contacts online versus the doctor’s office, due to purchasing direct from the warehouse.

Is this a reputable retailer?

The health of your eyes is nothing to take lightly, and you might be wondering if ordering online means you’ll get the same quality of contact lenses as when you order through your doctor’s office. Be sure to order from a reputable retailer with plenty of reviews and security features, so you know you’re not receiving something that could end up damaging your vision.

What are the customer service options?

How can you get in touch with someone if you have a question? Look for customer service options, such as a 1-800 number and the hours of availability.

What are the shipping and return policies ?

Check to see what the typical shipping times are, such as two days from approval, and if the shipping is free or costs extra for expediting. It’s possible your new contacts may not work out, so be sure to review the return policy.

Our top picks

Best one-stop-shop: 1-800 Contacts

It’s hard to beat the ease of use working with 1-800 Contacts. For starters, the site carries almost every recognizable brand of contacts, including specialty choices, such as for astigmatism or colored lenses. You can easily upload your prescription information with a quick picture. If you can’t locate it, don’t worry, because 1-800 Contacts will reach out to your eye doctor’s office for you.

1-800 Contacts also receives the pick as the Best for Expired Prescriptions. You can easily schedule an online eye exam if your script is expired and quickly get your order placed once you have the updated information.

  • Price: Varies, based on discounts
  • Customer service: 24/7 online chat, phone, or email
  • Shipping: Free standard shipping
  • Returns: No expiration date on unopened boxes
  • Accepts insurance: Yes
  • Offers virtual exams: Yes

Pros

  • Offers extensive brand selection
  • Accepts vision insurance, including FSA and HSA payments
  • Provides online eye exams if needed
  • Multiple convenient options to submit prescription information
  • Free standard shipping, plus expedited choices available
  • Free torn lens replacement

Cons

  • Multiple negative complaints on Better Business Bureau (BBB) site regarding customer service
Best one-stop-shop
Visit 1-800 Contacts

Visit 1-800 Contacts

Best for using insurance: Contacts Direct

ContactsDirect is another fantastic source because, as the name suggests, it deals only with contact lenses and makes it as easy as possible to order. Using vision insurance is no big deal for this company, and they’re ready to help ensure your benefits are applied where possible. They take it a step further though, and walk you through both your in-network and out-of-network options, so you aren’t stuck with a surprise cost at the end.

Whether you have vision insurance or not, ContactsDirect offers a range of discounts, including student and military savings and a price match guarantee.

  • Price: Starting at $39 per box
  • Customer service: Phone, online chat, and email
  • Shipping: Free standard shipping
  • Returns: Six months
  • Accepts insurance: Yes
  • Offers virtual exams: No

Pros

  • Specializes in working with most vision insurance companies
  • Substantial contact lens selection
  • Easy to use FSA/HSA payments
  • Use a variety of payment methods, including installment plan options
  • Generous 6-month return policy

Cons

  • Less favorable 3.9/5 star reviews for customer service with TrustPilot
Best for using insurance
Visit Contacts Direct

Visit Contacts Direct

Best for bifocal/multifocal contacts: Lens Crafters

Lenscrafters.com offers a full selection of multifocal options and an expansive selection of other specialized varieties, like colored lenses and astigmatism. However, if you need a bifocal or multifocal variety—which can be tougher to find with some online places—don’t worry, because Lenscrafters offers a significant selection.

In addition to the specialty varieties, Lenscrafters is equipped to work with most insurance plans and any FSA or HSA payments. If you need additional help with uploading your script information or questions about a product, they offer 24/7 online chat and customer service representatives are available by phone.

  • Price: Starts at $31 per box
  • Customer service: Online chat, phone, email
  • Shipping: Free standard shipping
  • Returns: Within 30 days
  • Accepts insurance: Yes
  • Offers virtual exams: No

Pros

  • Wide selection, including bifocal and multifocal options
  • Accepts most insurance plans
  • Offers interest-free installment plans
  • Free ground shipping and reasonable expedited fees
  • Online chat available

Cons

  • No virtual exam
  • Smaller, 30-day return window
Best for bifocal/multifocal contacts
Visit Lens Crafters

Visit Lens Crafters

Best for Coupons: GlassesUSA

Despite the name, GlassesUSA offers more than spectacles — it offers a huge selection of contact lenses in dozens of popular brands, including specialty lenses. If you don’t have your prescription handy, GlassesUSA can assist you by getting in touch with your doctor’s office. If you need them for any reason, you can access customer service numerous ways, including by phone, chat, or email.

GlassesUSA also offers coupons for contact lenses, so if you don’t have insurance or are paying out of pocket, you may be able to take advantage of additional savings. And the free shipping and returns is an added bonus.

  • Price: Varies, based on discounts
  • Customer service: Available everyday 7am to Midnight EST via phone, online live chat, and email available
  • Shipping: Free standard shipping
  • Returns: Free returns, 14-day exchange or return
  • Accepts insurance: Yes
  • Offers virtual exams: No

Pros

  • Offers wide selection
  • Extensive customer service options
  • Coupons available
  • Free shipping and free returns

Cons

  • Multiple negative reviews on the BBB website, but overall earns an A accreditation.
Best for Coupons
GlassesUSA

GlassesUSA

Best for returns : Walmart.com

Walmart

If your doctor has prescribed a brand you’ve never tried before, this is your first pair of contact lenses, or you have any issues with your lenses, then the return policy becomes even more important to you. Of all the places to purchase contacts online, Walmart offers the most generous return policy, with a 365-day guarantee (it’s not unusual for most to offer a 30- or 60-day option) and you can return for any reason.

Beyond the return policy, the prices are competitive and there are a few discounts available. WalMart does accept vision insurance and will work with you regarding FSA and HSA purchases. I’ve personally ordered my contact lenses from Walmart and found the service was exceptional, with the lenses arriving within a few days of my order.

  • Price: Starting at $14 per box
  • Customer service: Phone or email
  • Shipping: Free standard shipping
  • Returns: 365 days
  • Accepts insurance: Yes
  • Offers virtual exams: No

Pros

  • 365-day (from shipping date) free return policy for any reason
  • Expansive selection of lenses
  • Competitive pricing
  • Free shipping and expedited shipping options

Cons

  • No virtual eye exam
  • Considered out-of-network for some major vision insurance plans, including EyeMed and VSP

Best customer service: Frames Direct

There may be questions during the buying process, such as how to locate your prescription or what to do if a pair doesn’t fit correctly, which means good customer service is essential. FramesDirect has received a lot of kudos for its focus on this aspect: Not only are there thousands of positive reviews and a 4.7/5 star rating through TrustPilot, FramesDirect also earns an impressive A+ rating with the BBB and a 4.75/5 star rating. Additionally, FramesDirect offers free shipping in the 48 contiguous states and expedited options, plus a long list of international shipping destinations.

  • Price: Starting at $21.95 per box
  • Customer service: Phone or email
  • Shipping: Free standard shipping
  • Returns: Within 30 days
  • Accepts insurance: No
  • Offers virtual exams: No

Pros

  • Highly-rated among for customer service with both TrustPilot and the BBB
  • Price match guarantee
  • International shipping available to over 140 countries (some brands excluded)
  • Free shipping in the contiguous 48 U.S. states

Cons

  • Although service is highly rated, the phone hours are limited
  • Must submit receipt for vision insurance claims to receive reimbursement
  • No virtual eye exam
  • 30-day returns accepted (for sealed contact lenses)
Best customer service
Visit Frames Direct

Visit Frames Direct

Best for colored contact lenses: Warby Parker

warby parker

Warby Parker may be well-known for its huge selection of glasses, but it’s working hard to become a contact lens destination, too. Warby Parker currently offers several color varieties, including color options for astigmatism.

Whether you choose color lenses for fun or because your doctor has prescribed them, the wide selection offered is likely to cover your needs. And if you need a prescription renewal and are running short on time or funds, you can book a virtual eye exam and renew your prescription for only $15.

  • Price: Varies
  • Customer service: Text, chat, email, or phone
  • Shipping: Free standard shipping
  • Returns: Within 30 days
  • Accepts insurance: Yes
  • Offers virtual exams: Yes

Pros

  • Larger selection of colored lenses
  • Additional discounts available, plus credits for future purchases
  • Multiple customer service options, including phone, chat, text, and online
  • Free shipping and expedited shipping options
  • Accepts vision insurance, FSA/HSA payments
  • Virtual visit available for renewals

Cons

  • Overall selection is not as large compared to other sites
  • Website doesn’t address common questions with contact lenses
  • 30-day return window
Best for colored contact lenses
Visit Warby Parker

Visit Warby Parker

Best for a large selection: Lens.com

Lens.com has one of the largest selections of contacts, including daily, bi-weekly, and monthly wear, as well as being the best for specialty lenses, too. Whether your prescription is for a simple correction, or your doctor has prescribed something more specialized such as for astigmatism or gas permeable options, chances are you can find it through Lens.com. If you need a prescription then you can also take advantage of the virtual exam option for renewals, which currently costs $15.99.

  • Price: Varies
  • Customer service: Live chat, phone, email
  • Shipping: $9.95 standard shipping
  • Returns: Within 30 days
  • Accepts insurance: yes
  • Offers virtual exams: Yes

Pros

  • Large selection, including specialty lenses
  • Virtual eye exam available for renewals
  • 24/7 customer service available
  • Informative website with valuable information for ordering
  • International shipping options available

Cons

  • Standard shipping is $9.95
  • Hundreds of customer service complaints registered with the BBB
  • Discounts on product only offered as a mail-in rebate
  • 30-day return window for unopened boxes

Best for cheap contact lenses: Target optical

No one wants to overpay for their necessities, and the cost of contact lenses can certainly cause major sticker shock. Target Optical, at least, offers a way to help customers save as much as possible, with regular discounts and sales offered. Target RedCard debit cardholders can also save an additional 5% on their contact lens purchase.

Target accept all major forms of payment, and you can take advantage of installment options through AFfirm and Afterpay if needed, or use PayPal. Target also accepts most major vision insurance plans, which you can easily input while ordering.

(A repeated word of caution for bargain hunters looking elsewhere: Be wary of any place offering a price that seems too good to be true. Only purchase your contacts through an authorized seller.)

  • Price: Starts at $30 per box
  • Customer service: Phone, email
  • Shipping: Free standard shipping
  • Returns: Within 90 days
  • Accepts insurance: Yes
  • Offers virtual exams: No

Pros

  • Multiple payment options, including PayPal, Affirm, and Afterpay
  • Competitive pricing and multiple discounts available
  • Target RedCard debit cards for additional 5% discount
  • Free shipping and reasonable expedited shipping charges
  • Easily input insurance information

Cons

  • No virtual exam
  • Limited hours for customer service by phone
Best for cheap contact lenses
Visit Target optical

Visit Target optical

Tips for buying contacts online

  • Use an up-to-date prescription if possible. This cuts down on time for ordering, plus it ensures you know what brand your eye doctor recommends, based on your eye exam.
  • Find the brand on the retailer’s site. Check to make sure the site carries the brand prescribed for your eyes.
  • Select the number of boxes you want. Boxes are mostly sold in one-, three-, or six-month supplies. Be careful not to order too many boxes if you’re concerned your prescription may change before your next purchase, but if the budget allows, it’s typically advantageous to buy as many boxes as possible to get the most discounts.
  • Read the tutorial on the retailer’s website for inputting prescription information. The tutorials walk you through the abbreviations to look for and how to read the prescription.
  • Look for coupons, discounts, and rebates. Contact lens retailers often offer promo codes and discounts or links to a manufacturer’s rebate. Be sure to take advantage of as many of these as possible, but look out for higher shipping fees that might negate all those discounts.
  • Choose the best shipping method. Keep in mind the shipping times are calculated after your order is approved, which can take hours or days. If you’re in a rush, explore the expedited shipping and processing options.
  • Schedule regular eye exams. Your eye health is critical and regular visits to a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist is part of your overall wellbeing.

How we chose the best places to buy contacts online

To choose the best places to buy contacts online, we reviewed multiple national retailers with both an online-only and in-store presence as if we were buying these contact lenses for our own personal supply, including a review of:

  • The selection of manufacturers and brands
  • Advertised prices and available discounts
  • Ease of ordering
  • If vision insurance is accepted, including FSA/HSA
  • Return policy
  • Shipping policies and pricing
  • Customer service reviews

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Is it cheaper to buy contact lenses online?

In most cases it’s less expensive to buy contact lenses online versus through a doctor’s office. Contact lens distributors have access to warehouses of lenses, plus you’re not paying for the overhead of the doctor’s office. Many of the sites offer coupons too, for additional savings.

Can I buy contact lenses over the counter?

You have to obtain a prescription from a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist to purchase contact lenses, even for non-corrective lenses such as color options, and the lenses must be purchased through an authorized contact lens seller.

Can I order contacts with an old prescription?

By law you cannot order a pair of contact lenses with an old prescription, even if you think your vision has stayed the same. However, if you have an expired prescription, it’s possible for the online contact lens company to conduct an online eye exam.

Is it safe to buy contacts online?

Purchasing contact lenses online is considered safe, as long as you’re purchasing from an authorized, reputable online company. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) considers contact lenses a medical device, which is why a valid prescription

The information presented here is created independently from the TIME editorial staff. To learn more, see our About page.

1.1001.4580+1.62.30