While various medical services migrate online, accessing contact lenses through a company based on the web has become one of the simplest and most effective ways to save patients time and money.
ContactsDirect is among the most popular providers of online prescription contact lenses. They rank highly in speed and customer support, as well as cost and insurance compatibility.
We thoroughly tested ContactsDirect to determine how their shopping experience stacks up to the competition and what you’ll need to know to get started. Here we’ll tell you all the pros, cons, and factors that can help you decide if they’re the ideal way for you to get your contacts.
- Wide selection of major brands and styles
- Accepts many insurance providers
- HSA and FSA eligibility
- Free standard shipping with paid express options
- Specific discounts available for students, teachers, and veterans
- Price match guarantee
- Students, military members, medical professionals, and teachers take 15% or more off all orders
- No international shipping right now
- Selection of eye drops and solutions is subpar
- VSP is out of network
- Opened products are ineligible for return
At Innerbody Research, we extensively test each health service we review, including ContactsDirect. All told, our team has spent over 122 hours testing and researching ContactsDirect and their competitors to provide an accurate, unbiased analysis of how they stack up, free of marketing jargon and gimmicks.
Over the past two decades, Innerbody Research has helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions to live healthier lifestyles. We evaluate the service based on 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, like all health-related content on this website, this review was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy.
Compared to their most rigorous competition, ContactsDirect offers slightly lower prices per box on most brands. Prices are even better when you opt for a year’s worth of boxes instead of just six months. They’re also unusual for being in-network for a large number of insurance plans, making them a top choice for anyone with even modest insurance coverage or an FSA or HSA.
ContactsDirect also has a reasonable price matching system, so if you find a legitimately advertised price for identical contacts that’s lower than their offering, they’ll refund you the difference if you make a claim within seven days of your purchase.
The ContactsDirect website is easy to navigate. Locating your specific brand and style takes no time at all, and prescription input is well-integrated into the selection and checkout process. Applying your insurance coverage to a purchase is also remarkably straightforward, with a simple option placed in checkout before you pay and an effective lookup system for your doctor.
Shipping from ContactsDirect may have been the most convenient aspect of our testing. We placed our orders on a Sunday with the company’s free 7-10-day shipping option. The order shipped the next day, and we had our lenses in hand on Thursday — just four days after placing the order.
With any online medical purveyor, your privacy is paramount. ContactsDirect is upfront about the information they collect and how they use it, but what’s more impressive is that they make it easy to opt out of that process. A button at the bottom of the page labeled “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” opens a quick pop-up window where you can turn off all their tracking systems.
Communication is crucial for good customer care, and ContactsDirect offers a live chat service operated by actual people — not chatbots. They could answer just about any question we threw at them in a concise and friendly manner. Consistent updates on our orders also helped bolster this score, with emails for order confirmation, shipment and tracking, and delivery notifications. That last one was crucial for one Los Angeles-based tester whose contacts would have baked in the sun otherwise.
One area of customer care where ContactsDirect suffers is their return policy. Of course, we understand that it’s not a smart economic model to accept returns on used medical products, and ContactsDirect will not give any money back on opened boxes of contacts or bottles of solution. But this policy extends to damaged and defective products, as well as erroneous prescriptions. We don’t have access to ContactsDirect’s books, but we believe they could afford to at least take on the cost of returns for damaged, defective, or incorrectly produced lenses.
ContactsDirect is an extensive online marketplace for contact lenses. They’re owned by an Italian conglomerate — Luxottica — that also owns Lenscrafters, Sunglass Hut, Oakley, Ray-Ban, and more.
Online contact lens services are suitable for anyone with a prescription for corrective lenses. They can save you the hassle of having to visit your optometrist outside of your scheduled appointments. Also, online purveyors like ContactsDirect have the most competitive prices on the market, so you’re liable to save some money.
There are some specialty lenses, like scleral lenses, that you likely won’t find on ContactsDirect or similar sites. For lenses like these, it’s best to go through your optometrist.
ContactsDirect makes it easy to find the brand you want, with multiple styles from the following companies:
- Air Optix
- Precision 1
You can also purchase solutions and eye drops through ContactsDirect from the following brands:
- Clear Care - Solution only
- Opti-free - Solution and drops
- Systane - Drops only
ContactsDirect provides a smooth and straightforward process for their users. Our testers found their website intuitive, and they could have an order completed within just a few minutes. Here are the steps:
Step 1: Start browsing
Make sure ContactsDirect has the contact lenses you want. It’ll be surprising if they don’t, but it’s best to know before going through the rest of the process. You can navigate by brand, perform a direct search, and filter by type and use frequency (daily, monthly, etc.).
Step 2: Create an account
You can register yourself and others within your account, making it easy to order for your entire family. ContactsDirect integrates this step into the ordering process, so there’s nothing unexpected that you have to do.
Step 3: Specify your prescription for the lenses you choose
You’ll need to know your prescription information to complete this step, and we recommend double-checking to make sure you input it correctly. You’ll need a prescription specifically for contact lenses, not eyeglasses. Each type of prescription reads differently, so don’t worry about accidentally entering an eyeglasses prescription here, as the fields will not match up.
The details you may need are:
- Power/Sphere - This is the relative strength of your lens measured in diopters and represented as a number between -10.00 and +6.00. The measurement moves in 0.25 increments.
- Base Curve - This is the fit of the lens where it meets the eye. Most manufacturers have this value preset, and your optometrist will guide you toward one brand or another based on the shape of your eye or the presence of astigmatism.
- Diameter - Like base curve, this measurement is preset by manufacturers for a given line of contacts, and it represents the diameter of the lens measured in millimeters.
- Cylinder - This number applies to those with astigmatism, and it represents diopters of power needed for a lens to correct astigmatic vision.
- Axis - Like cylinder, this number applies to astigmatic eyes, and it represents the angle between its two meridians measured in degrees.
- Addition - This number is relevant for multifocal lenses, and it represents the extra power added to help with farsightedness. Companies may list this value in diopters or as low, medium, and high.
Once you have those necessary fields filled out, you can add a supply of contacts to your cart and head for checkout.
Step 4: Connect your insurance
The checkout screen is where you’ll want to have your insurance information at the ready, as well as the name of your optometrist. If your vision insurance is out-of-network, you should speak with your provider in advance to make sure ContactsDirect supplies you with all the necessary documentation to file an out-of-network claim.
Step 5: Complete checkout
Enter your payment information to cover any remainder after the system applies your insurance. This stage is also where you’ll select your preferred shipping method. Our testers were impressed by the speed of the standard option. It claimed a 7-10-day wait, but it arrived in just four days. We recommend sticking with this free option if you don’t need your contacts urgently. You should receive a confirmation email for your order, as well as an email notifying you when your package has shipped and when it arrives.
If needed, you can order lenses from ContactsDirect using their phone number (1-844-5-LENSES (1-844-553-6737)) or via LiveChat with a representative (available Mon-Fri from 8 am-4:30 pm EST). However you order, you still have to provide the company with a copy of your prescription. You can upload it to a profile you’d still have to create on the website, or you could email it to them.
ContactsDirect accepts major credit cards, PayPal and Apple Pay. They also partner with Affirm, so you can pay for your contacts in installments. However you choose to pay, there are a few ways you can save some extra money.
One of the most convenient ways to save with ContactsDirect is to order a year’s supply of your contacts whenever possible. They’ve built a savings program for annual ordering that isn’t a subscription, so you don’t have to worry about it renewing without your consent. This system not only prevents an unexpected charge to your account, but also ensures that you have time to get your prescription updated before having a new set of contacts shipped to you.
ContactsDirect boasts a comprehensive list of compatible insurance companies, including Aetna, EyeMed, Humana, Blue View Vision, Superior Vision, and others. Our testers could save upwards of 89% on an annual purchase when incorporating their insurance coverage.
However, one of the biggest vision insurance providers — VSP — is out-of-network, along with MetLife, Cigna, Davis, and others. In our opinion, the shopping experience on ContactsDirect is best when they accept your insurance. If you’ve got VSP, based on our testing, you may want to consider Eyeconic first. Eyeconic integrates well with VSP, MetLife, and Cigna. (To read more, check out our Eyeconic review.)
ContactsDirect was also one of the very first e-commerce sites to accept FSA payments. If you enter the account number for your FSA when you’re ready to buy from ContactsDirect.com, just as if it were a credit or bank card, you’ll be able to use your FSA dollars to buy your prescription contacts.
If you’re shopping around and you come upon a price that beats what you see on the ContactsDirect website, they’ll match that price. There are some stipulations, however, including the source advertising the lower price. ContactsDirect will only honor price match claims that involve competitive prices from the following companies:
- 1-800 Contacts
ContactsDirect won’t honor a Costco price match claim unless the customer can upload a membership card to prove they’re a Costco member.
The price against which you ask them to match has to be lower than their price, less any promotions. They also have to be an exact match in brand and style, and they have to be in stock with the competitor in question.
ContactsDirect gives you plenty of options for shipping, with a free 7-10-day option and two express options. At this time, shipping is limited to the United States, but it includes Alaska and Hawaii.
- Standard, 7-10 business days: Free
- Priority, 3-5 business days: $11.99
- Express, 1-2 business days: $19.99
How do returns work with ContactsDirect?
ContactsDirect has a modest return policy, but it’s not quite enough to please everybody. As soon as you open a box of contacts or a bottle of solution, you can no longer return it. You can return any unopened product for a full refund as long as you start the return process within six months of your purchase date.
ContactsDirect can’t do moneyback returns on an opened box of contact lenses even if you discover the product is defective or the prescription is wrong. But if you purchased a year’s worth of contacts, they can provide a full refund for any unopened boxes.
Our testers had no problems using ContactsDirect, and no products arrived with issues at all. But if you receive a damaged, defective or unacceptable product, keep in mind that the return process may take some time and probably be a little frustrating.
First, you’ll call the customer care line at 1-844-5-LENSES to describe how you think your contact lenses are defective or damaged. Then the manufacturer may need to examine the lenses. At that point, if the manufacturer concludes that the product was damaged, defective, or somehow wrong, then ContactsDirect will replace your product at no expense. It’s not a refund, but a replacement.
We didn’t experience any of these scenarios, and from our research, it seems unlikely that you will either. The best way to protect yourself from incorrect products is to double-check that you enter your prescription information correctly when ordering.
ContactsDirect isn’t the only game in town, though they are the company we found to offer the most options for insurance coverage. Still, for many patients, there may be compelling reasons to examine the offerings of other providers. Here’s how ContactsDirect stacks up against the competition.
Before the internet was a place to buy lenses, there was 1-800 Contacts. They’ve grown from a telephone ordering service to become one of the most prominent online lens providers in the business. Their prices are competitive, but we found ContactsDirect prices to be a tad lower in most cases. Couple that with the fact that 1-800 Contacts doesn’t take any form of insurance, and it’s clear where you stand to save more money.
For consumers looking to apply insurance from companies they don’t see on ContactsDirect, Eyeconic may be a viable option. They’re in-network for VSP, Cigna, and MetLife. Their base prices are noticeably higher than those from ContactsDirect, though, so those without insurance might want to look elsewhere. Read more about Eyeconic in our full review.
Hubble is something of a niche company. They offer daily-wear contact lenses from a specific manufacturer: St. Shine Optical. The contacts are high-quality, and their subscription model is a money-saver, but you’ll need to get a prescription specific to Hubble from your optometrist to sign up. Also, Hubble doesn’t offer dailies for astigmatism, limiting their usefulness for many potential customers. Read more about Hubble’s unique offering in this comprehensive review.
Lensabl has some excellent prices, but the most interesting thing about them is that they offer their customers the opportunity to receive a new contact or glasses prescription online without visiting an optometrist. The prescription process costs only $25, so it’s a great choice for the uninsured. Still, we would urge anyone with insurance or enough disposable income to visit their optometrist in person for the professional application of tests for vision and eye health. If you’re curious, you can read all about Lensabl in our complete review.
At first glance, the prices at Lens.com seem outrageously low. That’s because they advertise the price you theoretically pay after a rebate that you get if you purchase a year’s worth of lenses. Their base prices are average for the market. The rebate is generous, though, bringing their prices well below much of the competition. The only frustrating part is that you have to fill out and send in a form to get the rebate, and it comes in the form of a prepaid Visa card, so you have to fork over the full amount upfront. Check out more Lens.com details by reading our full review.
Lenscrafters is a name familiar to many who have visited their brick and mortar locations through the years. Now, their online presence offers users a platform they can shop with confidence. They also boast an enormous catalog of applicable insurance providers, and they couple that with extra savings for AAA and AARP members. We offer a complete breakdown of their services in our review.
There isn’t a lot that distinguishes AC Lens compared to ContactsDirect or the rest of the field. They have average prices and a rebate for yearly supplies that brings the cost down reasonably. But they’re out-of-network in just about every insurance case, and they only offer free shipping for orders over $100. If you’d like to learn more about AC Lens, you can read our thorough review.