Big names in the online prescription eyewear industry change rapidly – sometimes even dramatically – and yet some have been in business long enough to be considered “traditional”.
AC Lens certainly enjoys this privilege since it was the first company to sell eye accessories online, back in 1995. Over the past 25 years, this company has managed to keep their prices relatively low while also nurturing a sustainable business model.
Today AC Lens offers a solid, well-rounded product catalog and has had enough time to polish its rough edges. Should you buy your contact lenses, glasses, or accessories from AC Lens? We thoroughly tested their services and compared them to the competition. We’ll give you all of the pertinent details to help you decide.
- Prices are well below average, significantly lower than competitors such as LensCrafters or 1-800-CONTACTS
- A well established company, surprisingly long-lived for its niche
- Wide range of products, models, and accessories
- Good return policy and generally attentive customer service
- A new partnership with Visibly for prescription renewal
- Free shipping on orders over $99
- Get $5 off any order over $50 using code ACLS5
- No direct credit from insurance companies
- Not the fastest shipping
A veteran of the online vision care business, AC Lens remains a solid choice in 2020. They offer a wide and generally affordable selection. While you may find lower prices on specific products if you really look, AC Lens keeps its prices consistently below the average. The website is easy to use and works well as long as you don’t mind a slightly plain or dated appearance. Its shipping practices are reliable, but not fast. In fact, “reliable” is a good descriptor for the company as a whole.
AC Lens has stood the test of time, with a very large selection and lower prices than much of the competition.
While not the flashiest and certainly not the newest online shopping experience for prescription and non-prescription eyewear and contact lenses, AC Lens is one of the most dependable options. You can find very good prices here.
Innerbody Research recently celebrated its 20-year anniversary online. Over the past two decades, we have helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions involving staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles.
We extensively test each health service we review. We try our best to give you, our readers, an unbiased exploration of at-home health services, free of marketing jargon or gimmicks. We evaluate the service based on our adherence to quality, the latest medical evidence and health standards, and a simple question: would we buy the product or service ourselves if it weren’t part of our job, and would we recommend it to family and friends?
Additionally, this review of AC Lens, like all health-related content on this website, was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy.
AC Lens was originally founded in 1995 by Peter Clarkson, an optometrist and tech enthusiast from Columbus, Ohio. Back then, buying online was still a risky proposition, especially for medical-grade products such as contact lenses.
As the oldest company in their niche, AC Lens has sometimes run the risk of being left behind by the online industry they pioneered. For example, they only began offering online prescription renewals after the COVID-19 lockdowns began. AC Lens makes up for this by offering a solid reputation and highly efficient logistics. Even the BBB grades them as an A+ company.
The company’s biggest strength nowadays is its wide catalog. In addition to the usual categories of contact lenses and prescription eyeglasses, their offerings also include RGP custom contacts and a surprising variety of accessories. AC Lens even sells eye cosmetics
What can you buy from AC Lens?
- Contact lenses
- Eyeglasses, frames, and lenses
- Protective eye gear
In addition to providing a discreet alternative to standard eyeglass frames, contacts are an especially popular option for highly active people and those who want to have full coverage across their entire visual field (with no blind spots to the sides).
At AC Lens, you can find good deals for pretty much all the standard types of contact lenses as well as a few custom-made products that are much harder to find. Keep in mind that AC Lens will require a valid prescription before it sells you any contact lenses. If your prescription has expired, you now have the option to renew it online in certain states, as long as you want soft disposable lenses.
Disposable contact lenses
The company’s catalog for disposable contact lenses includes all of the major brands and product lines that you’d find at a brick and mortar store, including:
- Johnson & Johnson
- Bausch + Lomb
Disposables at AC Lens are organized in the following categories:
- Single-day disposable contacts. These lenses cannot be stored in liquid or worn again, so you will need to open a new pair every day. However, they are often regarded as the most comfortable. They also lower your risk of infection. Prices start at $22 for a box of 30 lenses.
- Bi-weekly and monthly disposable contact lenses. Starting at $23.99 for a box of 3, these lenses can be worn for 14 days to a month. At night or while sleeping, you just need to put them in a sterile container with a special lubricating fluid.
- Colored contact lenses. These may be purely cosmetic or combine a new eye color with vision correction. They are available in single-day or monthly versions. Prices start at $34.99 for a box of 3 monthly contacts.
- Toric contact lenses. These combine vision correction for near or farsightedness with astigmatism correction. They are available in single-day or monthly versions, starting at $35 for a one-month supply of single-day contact lenses.
- Multifocal contact lenses. These contacts are meant for people who suffer from both far- and nearsightedness simultaneously. If your regular eyeglasses are bifocal or multifocal, you will probably also need multifocal contacts. Prices start at $37.99 for a one-month supply of single-day multifocal contacts.
You can buy any of these contacts by the single box, in bulk (up to a 6-month supply) or as a subscription. If you sign up for a subscription, AC Lens will waive shipping fees and offer you a discount on future orders.
Long-term contact lenses
Over the past 15 years, the contact lens market has leaned heavily towards disposable, mass-produced models. However, people with unusual prescriptions or unusual eye diameters often have a hard time finding the measurements they need.
Because of this, some people still seek out custom-made, rigid, gas-permeable lenses. These are made from a smaller, rigid piece of plastic that only covers the pupil (the black dot at the centre of the eye) and part of the iris (the colored part of your eye). These are made to order and can last up to 3 to 5 years as long as they are professionally sanitized every 6 months. Prices start at $33.99.
Eyeglasses, frames, and lenses
Both traditional eyeglasses and tinted sunglasses are available in fashionable stylish models. AC Lens has a large selection of the following options.
These range from your budget-friendly, round frames to higher-end designer pieces. The frames by themselves start at $15. If you want to add vision correction, made-to-order lenses start at $49. You will also need to provide AC Lens with a prescription during checkout (or at least provide your doctor’s contact information). If your prescription expired already, you may be eligible to renew it online.
Tinted eyeglasses don’t necessarily offer vision correction – they are mostly used to protect your eyes from UV radiation. Eyeglasses start at $9.97, but you can add prescription tinted lenses starting at $54.
Reading glasses are a budget-friendly option for those who only need assistance when reading small print, but don’t need to wear glasses all the time. Reading glasses tend to be lighter and smaller, and rather than custom-made lenses, they come pre-fitted with a narrow range of measurements (usually between +0.5 to +2.00). Prices start at $7.95.
If you need to have custom-made prescription lenses, you will have to add the cost of the lenses, which come in three categories:
- Standard plastic for $49
- Thinner polycarbonate for $69.995
- Ultra-thin, high-index lenses for $99
Also, you can upgrade the latter two categories to add a blue light filter (+19.99), anti-reflex (+$20.99), Transitions lenses (+$79), or a standard sun tint (+$5).
- Swimming goggles start at $20
- Lab safety glasses start at $20
- Industrial safety glasses start at $35
Protective eyewear is any type of frame or shield meant to protect your eyes from environmental hazards. Depending on the type of protection you need, you may need completely airtight models or extra-sturdy materials.
AC Lens sells a wide variety of swimming and ski goggles, as well as a few industrial-grade safety glasses.
The Accessories section at AC Lens includes:
These are all meant to help you maintain or protect your eyeglasses or sunglasses. It includes protective sleeves or cases, cleaning solutions, and wiping cloths.
Contact lens accessories
In addition to the ubiquitous sterile cases and storing solutions, AC Lens also sells artificial tears, special tweezers to remove RGP lenses, and over-the-counter solutions to soothe red eyes.
At first glance, make-up glasses look like a modern alternative to monocles. These one-sided magnification lenses will help you apply complex eyeliner patterns or apply eyeshadow with extra precision.
If you wear contact lenses or have sensitive eyes, you may find it impossible to use any discount brand of mascara or facial foam. AC Lens sells a couple of alternative brands specifically designed for sensitive eyes.
At first glance, the AC Lens website looks a bit plain. However, this simplicity makes it very easy to navigate and use. They have steered clear from many of the “smart suggestions” and sliding menus that other websites prefer. This helps most pages load faster and keeps most options in a logical place.
Step 1: Find your product
If you are buying contact lenses, you can search by brand or category. Select the brand you want and select the power, base curve, and diameter from a drop-down menu. You will also have the option to:
- Buy one box per eye (if they need different prescriptions)
- Opt for a 3-month or 6-month supply
- Set up a subscription
If you’re looking for eyeglasses or sunglasses, you can search by:
- Target audience (women, men, or children)
- Frame type (full-frame, rimless, or semi-rimless)
- Shape (round, oval, square, or cat eyes)
Most models also offer at least two or three different colors. About 80% were in stock while our research team tested.
After selecting the frames, just click on “Add lens options” to enter the prescription values manually, choose the material, or add any enhancements.
Step 2: Checkout and payment
At the checkout menu, add your shipping and billing address, your payment method, and the patient information. Make sure the name on the latter matches the one on the prescription, which you will need to provide next.
Step 3: Provide a prescription
The easiest way to do this is to upload a picture or a scanned copy of it. You can also email it, fax it directly to them, or send a picture of it via MMS.
If you don’t have the physical prescription, you can give AC Lens your doctor’s contact information and the company will contact him or her directly to verify the prescription. If you choose this option, it will take them between 1 to 4 extra days to process your order.
If your prescription is over a year old, you will also have the option to renew the prescription online at no additional cost. This service is provided by Visibly but is not sold separately. You will
need to keep your old prescription around to provide the online test with a reference or starting value.
Online prescription renewals also have a few caveats:
- They’re not available in all states.
- You must be between 18 and 55 years old.
- People with severe myopia or hyperopia (with prescriptions over +3.50 or under -10.00) are ineligible.
AC Lens offers three shipping categories:
- Standard shipping. This is the default option, and it’s free for any orders over $99. Otherwise, it costs $5.99. Standard shipping with AC Lens uses USPS. Prescription eyewear or custom RGP contact lenses sent via standard shipping usually take 9 to 14 days (although it may be more if you weren’t able to provide a prescription). Contact lenses and accessories will take about 7 days.
- Expedited shipping. This type of shipping costs $8.99. Accessories, contact lenses, and sunglasses will take about 4 days to reach you, while any custom products (such as prescription eyeglasses) require 7 to 11 days.
- Overnight shipping. This costs $19.99 and is only available for non-prescription products such as sunglasses and accessories.
AC Lens usually keeps to their shipping deadlines when they don’t need to verify a prescription. If you chose to provide just your doctor’s information instead, AC Lens will take a little longer to fulfill your order.
The company is pretty upfront about this, and it speaks well of them that they are bothering to verify everything carefully. But in our experience, this process may take them more than the “extra working day” they indicate.
Returns and refunds
AC Lens has a solid return and refund policy. Most of its products can be returned within 1 year of the original purchase date. Just contact the customer service line and the company will send a printable prepaid label for you to return the product. Then, they will either credit the card you used to make the original payment, or ship a replacement.
There are two major exceptions to this policy:
- Custom-made RGP contact lenses cannot be returned, as they are made to order.
- Contact lenses manufactured by Acuvue, Johnson & Johnson, or Bausch + Lomb need to be returned directly to the manufacturer. You may still need to contact AC Lens first so that they can guide you through that process.
AC Lens does not take direct payments from insurance companies. However, they are listed as an out-of-network provider with some major vision plans, such as:
- Spectera by United Healthcare
- Davis Vision
Ac Lens’ insurance page provides useful information on the process to request a reimbursement. In some cases, they even let you download the necessary forms directly.
Note that some of the products sold by AC Lens (such as makeup removers or swimming goggles) are not medical at all and subsequently won’t be covered by any insurance or Health Savings Plan. Usually, you will be able to see if a specific product qualifies for payment with an HSA or FSA debit card on the product page. If one of the products on your cart is ineligible, the option to pay with an HSA will be grayed out on the checkout page.
At Innerbody Research, we customize our evaluation criteria depending on the type and nature of the health-related service. For health-related products and services, we have five areas that we use for our evaluations, including:
Quality: How well does the company deliver its core service(s) and product(s) to the customer? For testing services, does the company adhere to the latest and most advanced testing technologies and achieve a very high degree of accuracy? For non-testing telehealth services, is the quality of the service and/or product high enough that we would recommend it to loved ones without hesitation? If not, why not?
User-friendly: How intuitive and user-friendly is the service? Does the device, program, app, or website achieve a good degree of user-friendliness for its customers?
Value: Are you getting your money’s worth? Are there any hidden costs or charges? Does the company offer discounts?
Privacy: If health data is stored, will your data be stored securely? Are payments secure?
Customer support: Particularly in situations where ‘one size fits all’ doesn’t make sense, how well does the company help to make the service ideal for you?