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FIND YOUR LENSES CHEAPER

These are disguised own brand lenses

Some own brand lenses, eg, Boots are simply made by one of the big manufacturers and re-packaged. You can't buy these online but if you've picked one of these brands we'll show the equivalent manufacturer's lenses. You can still save big bucks on them.

Info sourced from Lenstore, GetLenses & FeelGoodContacts. Last checked 10 September 2013
Boots = Cibavision
Dolland&Aitchison = Coopervision (except its daily lenses which are Bausch&Lomb)
Vision Express = Coopervision (except its daily lenses which are Bausch&Lomb)
Eye Clinic = Coopervision (except its daily lenses which are Cibavision)
Specsavers = Cibavision or Coopervision
Conlons = Cibavision or Coopervision
FCUK = Cibavision
Go

Contact Lens Cost Cutting

Picture of eye

See sense and get up to 50% off the annual cost of your contact lenses. Shop around specialist contact lens suppliers to slash annual costs by 100+, plus chop a third off laser eye-surgery costs.

This is all about getting exactly the same lenses, made by the same company, with the same prescription, for less. Even opticians' own brands are often simply identical lenses with different packaging. Here are the key points:

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1. You've a right to get a copy of your prescription

Legally, opticians must hand over a copy of your contact lens prescription, even if you don't buy lenses from them. This means you're free to buy online from cheap online sellers.

It's all about getting exactly the same lenses as normal, following your prescription, but paying less. Once you know the contact lenses you need and have been fitted for them by an optician, select your lens type in the tool above. It will instantly search specialist discount sites to find the cheapest.

Any reputable online retailer won't sell lenses without verifying your prescription or seeing the original. Usually they'll only send out lenses you've been fitted for (unless they're disguised own brand lenses, see point 3). Your prescription will also need to be from within the last year.

Some dodge UK regulations by shipping your lenses from overseas. Yet be aware that if you buy from overseas, you lose your UK consumer rights and have far less protection if something goes wrong.

2. Look after your eyes with regular check-ups

If you're buying lenses online, it's vital to get regular aftercare. This is a follow-up appointment with a contact lens practitioner, who checks your eye health and ensures the lenses are still right for you. The number of check-ups you need depends on your situation. See the General Optical Council factsheet for more info.

If you buy lenses from your contact lens optician, aftercare will often be included (always check). But if you buy lenses online you'll need to pay for aftercare separately, though the saving from the lenses should outweigh this. As a rough guide, the check-ups cost between about 15 and 40. Here is the College of Optometrists' opinion: read more.

The British Contact Lens Association website has important info on how to minimise infection risk with contact lenses. It says that while contact lens-related infections are rare, regular aftercare, good hygiene and not wearing lenses overnight are all key. So read this to help make sure you're taking care of your eyes correctly.

3. Wear own-brand lenses? You can still compare

If you use a shop's own-brand lenses, such as Boots or Specsavers, you might think you're stuck with that store. Yet many own-brand lenses are re-packaged versions of the big manufacturers' products. For example, Boots Premium Dailies are Ciba Vision Focus Dailies All Day Comforts in disguise.

This means you can save by comparing prices for the big-brand version, instead of the own-brand. (That's right, we're telling you to consider switching from own-brand to a manufacturers' brand, unusual for MSE.)

To uncover the real brand and find where they're cheapest online, select your own-brand lenses in the tool above. It will show the manufacturer's identical lenses, the same lenses under a different name. Before buying, double check the own-brand price at Boots, etc, to ensure you'll save by switching.

Online retailers are allowed to dispense the manufacturer's alternative, even if you've not officially been fitted with these.

See a full list of own-brand lenses and who manufactures them (sourced from Lenstore).

4. Monthly schemes can be competitive

Many opt for monthly direct debit schemes from high street opticians which include lenses, solution and aftercare appointments for one fixed fee. These can offer good value but may also be beaten by buying lenses and solutions online for less and paying for aftercare separately, so do check.

For example, at the time of writing, 1-Day Acuvue moist lenses cost 40/month on Specsavers' monthly scheme, or 43/month on Boots' scheme. Yet you can get them online for around 330 for a year's supply at the time of writing. Tesco offers contact lens aftercare for 15. So factor in the aftercare and you can still save 30-60.

However, many high street opticians also include money off glasses, free sight test, plus annual health checks so it can be cost effective if you use all the extras on offer.

5. Reclaim the costs on a healthcare cashplan

There's a further way to cut lens costs. Healthcare cashplans allow you to reclaim the cost of dental, optical and other forms of healthcare, whether you get these via the NHS or not.

Technically, they're insurance policies which pay out for your healthcare costs. You pay a monthly payment (a premium), then when you lay out your own cash for a treatment, you reclaim a percentage of the costs back, up to a maximum limit set by the provider. Full details in the Healthcare Cashplans guide.

6. Are all online sellers legit?

The General Optical Council says UK regulations mean online contact lens sellers must have optical professionals involved in the selling of lenses.

To check, Ask the seller who its registered optician is, then check the name against the General Optical Council's register. If it's an overseas seller - including firms from Jersey or Guernsey - it may not legally have to comply.

7.Know your consumer rights

The Consumer Contract Regulations mean that when you buy goods online, you have a legal right to return the item within 14 working days (starting with the day after you receive the goods) for a full refund, even if there's no fault. Yet there are several exceptions to this, and one of these is if you've ordered personalised goods, or goods that have been made to your specification.

The jury's out as to whether contact lenses count as goods which have been made to your specification, but Trading Standards says: "Whether the lenses have been made to the consumer's specification will depend on the specific facts.

"If the lenses are one of a standard set of prescriptions and do not need to be tailored to the consumer's needs, then the purchase is likely to be covered by the Regulations. However, if the prescription is particularly unusual, and/or the lenses have had to be manufactured specifically to fit the consumer's eyes, then the cancellation rights are unlikely to apply."

It's worth noting these are EU regulations, so the consumer contracts regulations cover you for contact lenses ordered from any EU-based retailer. Jersey isn't a member of the EU, but has similar regulations under the Distance Selling (Jersey) Law.

8. Is there any extra buying protection?

There's very little protection if a company goes bust, and these are small companies which can get up and running without huge funds. Usually, a law called Section 75 means that if you pay for goods with a credit card and something goes wrong, then the credit card company is jointly liable. This only works when the item costs over 100, though. As individual lenses are less than this, it's unlikely to work.

An alternative is Visa/Mastercard chargeback. Pay on one of these cards and if something goes wrong you may be able get your money back from your card provider, though this isn't a legal obligation as with Section 75. Either way, it's worth paying this way for purchases, but beware - the protection isn't foolproof. See the Chargeback guide for full info.

9. Beware buying overseas

A number of online lens retailers operate from overseas - including the Channel Islands. While they can be cheaper, beware of extra charges and diminshed consumer rights.

  • Import duty. You may need to pay import duty on top of postage and packing costs. Delivery can take time and add to your costs.

  • Reliability and consumer rights. They're outside the UK's regulatory framework, so you've less comeback if things go wrong. While there's nothing innately less reliable about companies based in other countries, you have fewer consumer rights and a more distant relationship with them. So if things go wrong it's much more difficult to enforce your rights.

  • Exchange rates. If buying lenses from the Channel Islands, the price of lenses will be in pounds. But the price of lenses from the US will be in dollars, and therefore the amount you pay depends on the exchange rate. This can have a massive impact on whether it's competitive to buy from overseas or not.

  • If you've any worries about this, you're often still getting a good price from going to the discounters who charge in pounds, so you may want to stick with those. If you're happy to use an overseas site, treble-check you get the right prescription and the level of aftercare. See the Cheap Travel Money guide for credit cards that can give perfect exchange rates if buying in other currencies.

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10.Laser eye surgery for less

It's a big decision to fix your sight permanently, but big savings are possible. Make sure you do your medical research fully though, and consider all options.

It's possible to pay for some or all of your Optimax surgery with Tesco points. Better still, as Optimax is part of Tesco's Clubcard Deals scheme, you get it for a third of the price. In other words, a 5 in-store voucher is worth 15 of laser eye surgery.

So you could have a 990 treatment with 330 worth of vouchers. Or if you don't have enough to cover it all, use them to part pay.

11.Bulk buy to save

It's worth remembering that you'll usually get a bigger discount the more lenses you buy. So a 12-month supply will often be cheaper than a six-month supply. The tool above will show you whether this is the case for your particular lenses.

12. Monthlies can be cheaper

Monthly lenses can be cheaper than dailies, depending on how often you wear 'em. However, you can't simply order the monthly version of the lenses with your existing prescription - you'll have to get properly fitted for the monthly version before you can buy. Always check with your optician whether they're suitable first.

13. Boost gains with cashback

It's often possible to grab extra cashback on top. To get it, you need to sign up via specialist cashback websites. These use affiliate links to generate revenue. If they get paid when you sign up, they'll give some or all of it to you.

Always check first that it's an identical product, clear any cookies if you've already clicked through. Remember as the cashback isn't coming from the product provider, it's never 100% guaranteed. If you're new to cashback sites and how they work, read the Cashback Sites guide in full first.

14. Bag extra discounts on top

Many retailers offer discount codes. These aren't factored into the tool's results, so you'll need to check for these separately. You may find by using a code you can undercut the retailer listed at the top of the table - see Contact Lens Codes for the full list.

What the * means above

In the main body of the article two types of links are listed. Links that have a * help MoneySavingExpert.com stay free to use, as they're 'affiliated links' which invisibly take you usually via affiliate linkage or commercial money sites, which then pay this site. It's worth noting this means the third party used may be named on any credit agreements.

The second type doesn't help and therefore doesn't have a *. You shouldn't notice any difference, the links don't impact the product at all and the editorial line (the things we write) is NEVER impacted by the revenue - we aim to look at all available products. If it isn't possible to get an affiliate link for the best product, it is still included in exactly the same way. For more details read how this site is financed.

Duplicate links of the * links above for the sake of transparency, but this version doesn't help MoneySavingExpert.com: Feel Good Contacts, Contact For Lenses, GetLenses, Lenstore, Vision Direct, LensPlanet

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