Today, more and more people buy their contact lenses online, and for good reason. Buying contacts online means you do not have to leave your house to purchase contacts, and you can take advantage of discounts, rebate offers, and other promotions you would not otherwise see at your eye care professional’s (ECP) office or local brick-and-mortar eyewear store.
However, buying contacts online is not without its challenges. You may find yourself asking many questions, like “What do I need to buy contacts online?” or “How do I know which online sources are legitimate?” You may even wonder whether it is safe to buy contacts online in the first place. Lens.com is here to give you peace of mind.
In this article, we give you 10 tips for buying contacts online so you can have a smooth and safe shopping experience.
1. Get a comprehensive eye exam
Buying contacts is not the same as buying eyeglasses. Contacts are considered medical devices, so you need a prescription to buy them, online or not. You need to see an ECP for a comprehensive eye exam and contact lens fitting to get a prescription.
2. Make sure your prescription is complete and up-to-date
A contact lens prescription should contain sufficient information for a seller to completely and accurately fill the prescription. This includes the following items:
- Your name
- The name of the prescriber
- The date of your eye exam
- Power of the contacts (shown as “D,” “PWR,” or “SPH”)
- Curvature of the contacts (shown as “BC”)
- Diameter of the contacts (shown as “DIA”)
- Brand name of the contacts
If you have a prescription for toric contacts (contacts for astigmatism), your prescription should also include values under “CYL” and “AX.” If you were prescribed multifocal contacts (contacts for presbyopia), your prescription should also have an “ADD” value. Additionally, if you were prescribed colored contacts, your prescription will contain “COLOR.” This simply refers to the color of the contacts prescribed to you.
Note that your prescription will also include an expiration date. Once it expires, make an appointment with your ECP to obtain an updated one. Some online retailers also have prescription renewal services, so you can easily renew your prescription from the comfort of your home.
3. Get a copy of your contact lens prescription
Before processing your order, legitimate, reputable retailers will always verify your contact lens prescription. They can either ask you to upload a picture of your prescription or enter the information manually on their website. Having a physical copy of your prescription makes this process easier.
Remember that your ECP is required by law to give you a copy of your prescription after your fitting, even if you do not ask for it. If you do not have a copy of your prescription, some retailers ask for your ECP’s name and information instead, and they will then contact your ECP to verify your prescription.
4. Be aware that contact lens and eyeglass prescriptions are not the same
Although eyeglasses and contacts both correct vision, their prescriptions work differently. That is because a contact lens sits directly on the eye, whereas eyeglasses do not. This means a contact lens must match the size and shape of your eye exactly. Due to the differences between the two, you cannot use an eyeglass prescription to buy contacts online and vice versa.
If you have a prescription for eyeglasses and want to switch to contacts, visit your ECP for an eye exam and contact lens fitting.
5. Stick to the brand prescribed to you
Contact lens brands differ in water content, shape, and material used. Your ECP will prescribe you a brand based on your eye health needs, and as such, you should only buy the brand prescribed to you.
6. Compare prices
Prices vary significantly between online retailers. For example, ACUVUE® OASYS® with HYDRACLEAR® PLUS Technology 24pk retails for only $65.24 before rebates at Lens.com. The same brand retails for $159.98 at 1-800 Contacts. If you plan to buy contacts online, it is good to check out different retailers to see if you can find your contacts at a price that best suits your budget.
7. Check the seller’s background information and reputation
Before buying contacts online from an online retailer, do your research. How long has the retailer been in business? Do they sell contacts at reasonable prices? Do they have good customer service? Do they have phone and email support? The answers to these questions should help you determine where to buy your contacts.
A legitimate, reputable retailer should also not attempt to substitute a different brand for which you have a prescription. You should also be wary of any retailer that supplies contacts that do not exactly match your prescription.
8. Check reviews from third-party websites
Online reviews matter tremendously in e-commerce because they help customers get a better idea about the products being sold and the retailer itself. But not all retailers accept and publish customer reviews on their websites, and some of those that do only accept and publish positive reviews. For unbiased reviews, consider checking out reviews from third-party websites and organizations, like Trustpilot.
9. Consider the seller’s payment and delivery options
If you are after convenience, you should look for a retailer with flexible payment and delivery options. Do they accept debit cards? What about credit cards or cash on delivery? How much is shipping, and how long will it take for your order to arrive? Choose a retailer with payment and delivery options that work for you. It is also a good idea to check with your insurance provider if you can purchase contacts online and submit a claim on your own for reimbursement.
10. Buy contacts and contact lens care supplies early enough
The only major downside of buying contacts online is that you will not get them immediately. If your contacts will take some time to get to you, make sure you order early enough. Also, consider how long your contact lens care supplies will last and plan accordingly.
Frequently Asked Questions About Buying Contacts Online
- Is it safe to buy contact lenses online?
Yes, buying contacts online is perfectly safe if you buy from a legitimate, reputable retailer. Avoid dubious or unknown sources that do not ask for a valid contact lens prescription.
- Are contacts ordered online of the same quality as those purchased from an ECP or brick-and-mortar eyewear store?
Yes, but only if the retailer is legitimate and reputable. Remember that all contacts are considered medical devices, even those used solely for cosmetic purposes. Be wary of retailers that sell non-prescription contacts and retailers that do not ask for your prescription.
- Do I have to buy my contact lenses online?
No, you are not obligated to buy your contacts online, nor are you required to purchase your contacts from your ECP. As per the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act of 2004, you are free to buy your contacts from any legitimate source.
Buying contacts online is a convenient option for contact lens wearers who do not want to leave their house to shop for contacts. But as is the case with most online transactions, buying contacts online is not without risks. For a smooth and safe shopping experience, follow the tips above.