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Best contact lenses online 2020: plus, where to buy discount contact lenses

Best contact lenses online 2020: including where to buy discount contact lenses
(Image credit: ShutterStock)

It’s now super-easy to find the best contact lenses online, meaning you can get a steady supply sent straight to your home whenever you need them, whether that's a monthly contact lens supply or something less regular. You'll find discount contact lenses, colored lenses, daily contacts and more online, but there are some things to keep in mind before buying. This ensures you'll get the best arrangement for your vision needs.

In fact, when it comes to finding the best contact lenses online, there are three key things to check off before spending a dime. Firstly, choose a trusted eyewear company that delivers when they say they will, and to your exact contact lens prescription requirements. There’s nothing worse than being forced to bust out your old glasses because you were sent the wrong prescription contact lenses. Of course, if you enjoy mixing up your look with glasses one day and contacts the next, also take a look at our guide to the best eyeglasses online.

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You’ll also want to consider the features each site offers. The companies offering the best contact lenses online are likely to have online eye tests that enable you to renew your prescription, plus a dedicated customer chat to answer your questions. They may even offer direct dial phone numbers if you need extra customer support. Some of them even deal directly with the best vision insurance companies to determine your coverage, saving you the hassle of doing it yourself.

Many of the best contact lenses online also come with free shipping and can be purchased in bulk, so look for an eyewear site that meets both requirements.


1. 1800 Contacts: best contact lenses online overall 

Best contact lenses online: 1800 Contacts

(Image credit: 1800 Contacts)

1800 Contacts

A superb place to buy contact lenses online

Great customer service
Low prices
Subscription service
Prices depend on rebates and offers

Your search for the best contact lenses online may be a short one if you start with1800 Contacts. The 800-pound  gorilla when it comes to contacts, 1800 Contacts offers excellent customer service, free shipping, free returns, and even exchanges torn or broken contacts without question. They offer a range of lenses too, so you should be able to find what you need regardless of your particular prescription..

The site has online eye test apps you can use to renew your prescription in tandem with your optician. One of 1800 Contacts few shortcomings is that it can be difficult to determine your final cost before you order, as the site often takes multiple discounts and rebates into account when you buy online. Discounts are great, but one that applied last time you ordered may not be active this time around, changing your overall cost. A subscription service circumvents that problem, but may not suit your situation. 

It's also worth knowing that 1800 Contacts sells glasses too, as they are owned by Liingo, a modern eyeglasses seller. So if you enjoy the customer service when buying your contact lenses online here, you can buy your specs at the same time.


2. AC Lens: best contact lenses online for small budgets

Best contact lenses online: AC Lens is great for buying discount contact lenses

(Image credit: AC Lens)

AC Lens

If you're looking to buy discount contact lenses, AC Lens is a winner

Quick dispatch
Low prices
No eye exam appointment
Free shipping has strings attached

AC Lens' prices are low because it doesn’t mess around with the other stuff. With a simple subscription model (that provides deeper discounts), the site features little in the way of tricks or gadgets. This means you won’t get much hand-holding and you’ll have to deal with your insurer yourself but reliability is good, shipping is fast and prices are low. You'll often find coupons and offers to reduce the cost further, if you're willing to dig into the site and sign up for the mailing lists.

AC Lens does have a toll-free number to call for any questions you may have, and there is online chat, although it isn't as friendly or prompt as 1800 Contacts. If the service really isn't up to standard, you can get free returns on contacts (no questions asked), and if you buy glasses you can return them within 30 days if your prescription changes.

AC Lens also has a stack of eye-related extras for sale too, so can be a good one-stop-shop if you need a bunch of different items and don't want to spend too much money.


3. GlassesUSA: best all-rounder

Best contact lenses online: GlassesUSA

(Image credit: GlassesUSA)

GlassesUSA

If you need both contact lenses and great eyeglasses, shop here

Well priced with regular promotions
Covers all bases for contacts and glasses
Free shipping
Limited selection on offer

Don’t be fooled by the name: GlassesUSA has some of the best contact lenses online, too. What makes GlassesUSA so great is the wide selection of both contact lenses and frames on offer, meaning you can stock up on all of your eyewear essentials when you order. 

We were impressed by the prices of contacts lenses when we reviewed them. In fact, they came in significantly cheaper than 1 800 Lenses (that's before the 25% discount), and also came with free shipping. There's also express shipping if you find yourself short on contact lenses or you leave it until last minute to re-order. 

There wasn't as many lens options as with solely lens-based retailers, but you'll find all the best contact lens brands here, a variety of package sizes, and even colored contact lenses on offer. There's also no need for a subscription, so you won't feel trapped in, and there are other eye-related products available too.

GlassesUSA has a wide selection of both frames too, so you can snag yourself some chic specs to wear on days you want a rest from contacts.

Read our GlassesUSA review


4. Discount Contact Lenses: best contact lenses online for a wide selection

Best contact lenses online: Discount Contact Lenses has a great selection on offer

(Image credit: Discount Contact Lenses)

Discount Contact Lenses

Another great option for stocking up on the best discount contact lenses

Great, usable website 
A superb selection
Subscriptions with hefty discount
Free shipping is only for $99 and above

Discount Contact Lenses’ site features just about every manufacturer and style, with uniformly low prices to boot. The site is well designed, there are no unexpected obstacles and ordering is easy. Returns are simple and process no-questions-asked and there is a friendly and well-staffed 1800 number for urgent questions. Discount Contact Lenses is a perfect site for people who want fast service and low prices without obstructions.


5. Web Eye Care: a wealth of contact lens brands

Best contact lenses online: Web Eye Care

(Image credit: WebEyeCare)

Web Eye Care

A site with plenty of eye health info, and a large range of products

Big range  
Excellent customer service 
Library of in-depth articles
No subscriptions

Web Eye Care has a really well-stocked selection of contact lens brands. Though the site feels big, the path from choosing your the best contact lenses for you to checkout is hassle-free and the range of payment options is also large. 

There are accessories available to add to your order, and if you’re in the market for glasses while you wait, there’s a wide range of these too. This is a really comprehensive, all round eyewear store. Highly recommended for not just contact lenses but the full service.


6. Coastal: best contact lenses online for a great visitor experience

Best contact lenses online: Coastal

(Image credit: Coastal)

Coastal

A thoroughly modern website, and overall great buyer experience

Modern and smart site 
Price-match scheme
Compact range 
No subscriptions

Just because contact lenses aren’t inherently sexy, there’s no reason a website experience can’t give you a kick. Coastal’s site is really clear and uses white space with big, bold, beautiful photos. There’s also an interesting blog section, should you find your research into the area lacking. This could end up being a mundane shopping experience but with Coastal it’s an aspirational lifestyle choice.


7. Contacts Direct: best for accessibility

Best contact lenses online: Contacts Direct

(Image credit: Contacts Direct)

Contacts Direct

A simple site that makes it quick and easy to buy contact lenses online

Decent prices
Good customer service
Poor browsing experience
Little addition advice or info 

Contacts Direct’s site has the most common brands are listed in a strip of drop-down menus and less ubiquitous lenses take one more click to access. It’s not particularly pretty, but if you know what you want it’s incredibly quick and convenient. Contacts Direct is happy to deal with your insurer and take payment from them, leaving you to cover the excess if there is any. It’s a brilliantly straightforward and simple way to buy contact lenses.


8. Lenscrafters: has additional offline stores

Best contact lenses online: LensCrafters

(Image credit: LensCrafters)

Lenscrafters

Also has more than 1,000 stores offering eye exams

The world’s biggest eyewear supplier 
Comprehensive eye health advice
Prices could be lower 
No subscriptions

Lenscrafters’ big draw is its network of well-appointed bricks and mortar optometrists, spread evenly across the US (and indeed further, if you happen to find yourself in need of an eye exam on holiday). There’s a significant investment in US eye health that lends real credibility to the Lenscrafters’ business. The customer service and the stores generally have a really good reputation so if you find one near you, it’s definitely worth a visit in person.


9. Walgreens: a good choice if you're new to contact lenses

Best contact lenses online: Walgreens

(Image credit: Walgreens)

Walgreens Contacts

Get a dose of eye health information with your online contact lens order

Backed up by nearly 10,000 stores 
Free shipping 
No subscriptions
Prices

The Walgreens site contains a wealth of information and advice, making it well placed to support those of you who are new to contact lenses and therefore need more support when buying the best contact lenses online. 

The range is huge, and along with it there's extensive advice and help. For example, Walgreens offers information on contact lenses and FSA funding, plus various articles on how to wear contact lenses, how to buy contacts, and how to store your new contact lenses.


10. Walmart: best contact lenses online for add-ons

Best contact lenses online: Walmart Contacts

(Image credit: Walmart)

Walmart Contacts

Buy contact lenses online... while doing your groceries shop

Large chain, well known brand
Great, well laid out site
Prices not the lowest
No subscriptions

Walmart has a lot to offer besides just contacts. It’s a great place to get everything you need from eye drops and solution to eyeglasses in every style imaginable. If you want contact lens cases that are functional as well as stylish, there are a multitude of colors and styles to pick from. 

There are also a ton of eyedrops available if you have specific needs like dryness, allergies or eye redness. If you visit one of the Vision Centers in-store for an exam you can even pick up your household necessities like groceries, clothing, toys and even automotive care products.


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Choosing the best contact lenses online for you

This speaks very directly to what type of contact lenses you need, how often you wish to wear them, and whether they need to have any extra features. Some contact lenses are designed to be disposable, so you’d wear them once and then throw them away. Other contact lenses are designed for longer wear, and come offer colored lenses for various reasons – both medical and fashion. 

Generally speaking, contact lenses come in the following varieties:

  • Soft contact lenses
  • Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP) contact lenses
  • Extended wear contact lenses
  • Disposable contact lenses

Tips for finding a good online contact lens supplier

There are also many things to take into consideration when buying new contact lenses. Some sites have options to help you with keeping your optical prescription up-to-date but others leave you to it so how much hand-holding do you need? Some sites have detailed and educational information on what you’re putting in your eye, while others maximize their efforts on providing a wide range or low prices instead.

And there is an increasing number of contact lens suppliers on the market so it’s more important than ever to do your homework to make sure you’re really going with the best option.

As always, price pays a key part in any decision. How much are you willing to invest (especially if it’s a regular outgoing rather than a one-off glasses purchase)? How much do you value customer service? Some sites are happy to replace torn lenses or exchange if your subscription changes, others not so much. 

And, as with other purchases, ease of transaction is crucial. Do you really care about a slick and stylish website? Do you care more about speed and efficiency? Does shipping time make a difference? Do you want to spend all day reading about the history of contact lenses?

Ultimately, whichever contact lens provider you choose will come down to which of these is the biggest selling point for you. When it comes to contact lenses please do your research carefully. Get to know your own needs and preferences and read a lot of reviews. Speak to your eye doctor too and make sure you’re getting the right deal and choosing a provider for the right reasons.

How much do the best contact lenses online cost?

How much you pay for contacts online is going to vary depending on your prescription. Customized RGP lenses, for instance, can cost upwards of $40 per lens while a 30-pack more commonly prescribed lenses are about $1 per lens. What you pay out of pocket depends on your eye insurance plan as well, so you’ll need to have that information handy when placing your first order. Many websites will also note whether you can use an HSA or FSA account to buy certain contacts.

Can I use vision insurance when buying contact lenses online?

With regards to vision insurance and contact lenses, if a plan is nationwide, you should double-check that it works in your area or with your provider of choice. Most sites should allow you to enter your ZIP code to review coverage areas. Some plans may offer only some benefits in certain locations, so review the details very carefully before committing. 

Once you find what you believe to be the best contact lenses for you, determine what (if any) insurance the site accepts. Lastly, there’s the monthly premium to consider. A lower monthly premium typically means you’ll spend more on whatever services you end up needing, and the reverse is also generally true. 

Is it safe to wear contact lenses?

The short answer to this question is yes, as long as you wear them correctly. Most medical contacts are very safe to use, especially when prescribed by a doctor. Keep in mind that contacts could cause damage to the eyes since they are placed directly on the cornea. Still, at most this usually only results in minor scratches, which, while unpleasant aren’t life-altering. To prevent any problems, make sure you don’t wear your contacts for too long and that you clean them properly.

If you wear dailies, be sure to dispose of them properly and use a new pair every day, as these are not designed for multiple days of wear. If your eyes are dry or irritated, they are easier to scratch, so talk to your doctor immediately if they become uncomfortable. 

You’ll also want to use good hygiene practices to prevent any bacteria from finding its way to your eyes. Wash your hands and dry them thoroughly before placing or removing contacts. Additionally, before you swim or take a shower, remove your contacts to prevent chemicals and bacteria from getting trapped against your eyes.

Do contacts lenses make your eyes worse?

If you go in for a checkup and discover your vision has declined, you might want to ask if your contacts are the root of the problem. In the majority of cases, myopic changes are natural and would have occurred whether or not you wore contacts. In some rare occasions, usually when using contacts incorrectly, injuries can occur.

This leads us to another common question: Can contact lenses make you go blind? In very rare instances, usually when using poor hygiene practices, an eye ulcer can develop. Left untreated, this obstruction can cause permanent vision loss. Even when treated, scar tissue can sometimes result in reduced vision. But once again, this is very rare and only affects a small portion of the population. 

To prevent complications, follow your doctor’s instructions as well as the instructions on the contact lens box and solution bottle. If you start to experience any discomfort or develop red eyes, consult your doctor right away. Read this WebMD article if you want to learn more about corneal ulcers.

How many hours a day can you wear contact lenses?

The unsatisfying but true answer is, it depends. Some people’s eyes can handle contacts for longer periods without needing a break, while others are more at risk of infection when contacts are worn for extended periods. Some lenses are made to be worn longer than others, so it also depends on the type of contacts you use. An absolute certainty is that for most people, wearing contacts overnight increases the chances of an eye infection.

According to All About Vision, our eyes need oxygen to remain healthy. Wearing contacts too often can lead to oxygen deprivation, so make sure you take your contacts out regularly, especially before going to bed. Most people can wear contacts every day without a problem, but it really depends on your doctor’s diagnosis and directions. To prevent any complications, some doctors ask that you take your contacts out an hour or two before bed every night. To be safe, always follow your doctor’s instructions for proper contact use, and replace your lenses as directed.

The best contact lenses for Amblyopia

It’s not uncommon for young children to develop a vision disorder where nerve pathways between the brain and eyes are disrupted, making it so the burden of vision falls on just one eye. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), the most visible symptom of amblyopia is a lazy eye, but you may also notice your child has poor depth perception and eyes that don’t seem to work together. Your child might also get frequent headaches or have loss of vision in one eye. This can, in turn, cause them to squint or strain their good eye. If not corrected in childhood, this disorder can cause permanent vision problems.

There are corrective glasses that can help children overcome or lessen amblyopia, as well as eye drops. You can also correct this problem with special contact lenses. Contact lenses draw less attention to your child and their condition, which could help their self-esteem. You need to check with each contact delivery service to see if it offers corrective lenses specifically for amblyopia. As with any other contact order, you need a prescription from a doctor to purchase these lenses.

The best contact lenses for astigmatism

Toric contact lenses are designed specifically for people who have astigmatism. Astigmatism is an imperfection in the eye’s curvature, which causes distorted vision. This usually means the cornea is oblong like an egg instead of being spherical. Astigmatism is very common, affecting more than 3 million people in the U.S. every year.

Toric lenses must stay in a specific position on the eye to correct astigmatism. They are usually made of soft materials like hydrogel, though some are made of Rigid Gas Permeable (RGP), also called Gas Permeable (GP), materials, which make them harder. Some toric lenses are weighted at the bottom to make sure they stay in the right location on your eye. This prevents them from rotating and only allows them to move vertically when you blink.

According to Foothill Optometric Group, GP lenses, while not as popular as soft lenses, don’t contain water and are therefore less likely to attract and breed bacteria. A single pair can even last a full year if you take care of them properly.

You’ll find that most contact lens companies sell corrective toric lenses in both soft and GP form. Talk with your doctor to determine which option is right for you. If you want to fully correct astigmatism, discuss LASIK with your doctor to see if it’s an option for your eyes.

Dry eye remedies

If you wear contacts regularly, you might be one of the thousands who suffer from irritated, red eyes. To get help, make an appointment with your eye doctor to see what the best remedy for your situation is. It might be something as simple as getting prescribed eye drops or changing the lens solution you’re using. There are also specialty lenses that help with irritated eyes. 

According to All About Vision, there are at least five different types of contacts to help with dry eye: Bausch + Lomb Ultra, Dailies Total 1, CooperVision Proclear, Extreme H2O and Scleral Lenses. Speak with your doctor to determine if one of these contacts is a good solution for you.

There have been rumors going around that consuming Omega-3 from fish oil supplements will help with dry eye. However, a recent National Eye Institute funded study found that these capsules are nothing but a placebo when it comes to dry eye. To get actual help, consult your eye doctor.

What is computer vision syndrome?

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), prolonged screen use causes several eye and vision problems, and viewing a backlit screen, whether that be on a tablet, computer or smartphone, puts strain on your eyes. Most commonly, symptoms of computer vision syndrome (also called digital eye strain) include headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, neck and shoulder strain, and eye strain. Typically, these symptoms are caused by poor lighting, uncorrected vision problems, poor posture and screen glare.

To get help with digital eye strain, you need to consult your eye doctor. He or she will evaluate your eyes’ ability to focus and check for vision problems like nearsightedness or farsightedness. Your eye doctor can prescribe treatments based on what they find. Seeing your eye doctor regularly and adopting healthy screen-viewing habits should benefit your overall eye health.

Keratoconus contacts and treatments

Unlike astigmatism, which is an eye deformity, keratoconus (KC) is an eye disease that gets worse over time. Symptoms include blurred and distorted vision, progressive nearsightedness, and a sensitivity to glares and light. Physically, the cornea develops into an irregular cone shape. According to All About Vision, the first sign of KC for many people is needing to change their eyeglass or contact lens prescription every time they see their eye doctor.

When the disease first starts, it can be treated with special contacts and eyewear. The contacts must be fitted to your eye, which takes time and several visits to your ophthalmologist. If soft lenses don’t do the trick, then GP lenses are often used. However, as the disease grows, these lenses become less effective until they no longer work.

Scleral and semi-scleral lenses are another option. These larger GS contacts cover portions of the white part of the eye. Because of their shape, they put less pressure on the cornea, making them more comfortable to wear.

Prosthetic lenses treat advanced cases of KC. As with other contacts, you must get a prescription from a doctor for these custom-shape lenses. While they have proven to help healing and reduce symptoms, prosthetic lenses are very expensive – you’ll pay several thousand dollars for a fitting with a certified doctor.

When you reach a stage where contacts and eyewear no longer help your KC, it might be time to talk to your doctor about Intacs. The National Keratoconus Foundation (NKCF) states that Intacs were approved in 2004 for treating KC. They are plastic inserts surgically placed beneath the eye’s surface to help reshape the cornea. The foundation further states that the procedure usually takes only 15 to 20 minutes, and you will need to come back for follow-up visits. There are risks with this procedure, including infection and blurry vision. For more information, discuss this treatment thoroughly with your doctor.

What are multifocal contact lenses?

Multifocal lenses may be the best option if you're dealing with presbyopia or age-related farsightedness. Also called near/far contact lenses, one lens has more than one prescription to help you see near and far. CooperVision explains there are pros and cons to using these lenses. On the plus side, you can usually see without wearing glasses, your range of vision is better and the transition between prescriptions is smoother. On the other hand, the viewing experience is very different and might take some time to get used to. New users usually experience hazy or shadowed vision during the transition. These lenses also happen to be very expensive since they are more complex than others.

If multifocal lenses don’t sound appealing, there are other options. For example, you could wear contact lenses with reading glasses or use monovision or bifocal contacts. If you’re willing to spend the money, see your doctor to discuss surgical procedures or lens implants.

What key features should I look for when selecting an online contact store?

You can shop around at contact lens websites all you want, but to place an order you’ll need a prescription from your eye doctor. Most websites offer several ways to verify your prescription, including uploading an image of the prescription or even getting in touch with your optometrist’s office. This even applies to zanier colored contacts or ones with a Halloween theme to really put your zombie or monster costume over the top. According to 1-800 Contacts, contacts can’t legally be sold without a prescription because the Food and Drug Administration categorizes them as a medical device. If you don’t need vision correction but want to have some fun with your eye color, Walmart Contacts recommends talking to your eye doctor about getting a prescription for 0.00 or plano contacts.

On a similar note, keep in mind that many Halloween and novelty stores sell unlicensed colored contacts, both at physical locations and online. Health Canada, a medical association, has stated that novelty stores’ contacts usually haven’t passed safety regulations and often contain toxins and harmful materials that could damage or infect your eyes. The Canadian Association of Optometrists says that even prescribed novelty lenses are often used incorrectly and result in vision complications, for example, scratching or cutting your cornea, which can cause an allergic reaction or infection. Of course, the most common problem with novelty lenses is vision obstruction, which can lead to accidents.

If you’re still determined to get novelty lenses to complete your costume, make an appointment with an eye doctor. To prevent complications, clean the lenses properly before putting them in, never sleep with them in and never share them with others. Above all, listen to your eye doctor's instructions for proper care, use and cleaning.

If color contacts sound like something you're interested in, there are two basic types. Prescription color contacts correct your vision while having a colored layer to change the appearance of your eye. Plano color contacts are purely for cosmetic purposes and don't correct your vision. Either way, you'll need a prescription from an eye doctor.

The cost of colored lenses varies, but generally speaking they're more expensive than regular corrective lenses. For example, a box of Air Optix Colors cost about $70 (as of March 2019) while contacts for astigmatism, night and day and several other kinds all cost around $50. Still, the Air Optix multifocal contact lenses also cost about $70, so not all clear lenses are less expensive than colored lenses

When shopping for colored contacts you'll have the choice between colored or tinted lenses. Colored lenses are typically more vibrant in color and will totally change the look of your eye. Costume lenses are also in the colored lens category, though these tend to be less opaque and very decorative.Tinted lenses are meant to be more subtle and only slightly change your eyes. These are ideal if, for example, you have very light blue eyes but want them to be slightly deeper in color.

Vision insurance

To get financial assistance for your eye care products, including contact lenses, you need vision insurance. Typically, regular health insurance covers a visit to the optometrist but doesn't cover additional purchases such as glasses or lenses.

There is a multitude of plans available from numerous companies, and each one is different. But generally, vision insurance covers all or part of the cost of your glasses and contacts as well as a fraction or all of the cost of the doctor's office visit, as long as you're within your plan's network. You should check ahead of time to make sure the eye doctor you're visiting is covered by your plan. Most plans cover an annual eye exam, and if you go more than that, you might have to pay some out-of-pocket costs. Vision insurance also usually covers part of some eye surgeries, including LASIK. If you need unique lenses, such as photochromic lenses, your vision insurance will also cover part of that cost as well.

However, if you rarely go to the eye doctor, you can use a health savings account (HSA) to pay for the visit instead of signing up for vision insurance. This isn’t viable long term or for those who often need new contacts or lenses, but it can work for those who are between jobs or in school.