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. We've picked out some of the key points to consider.
Unfortunately, we have had to take down the contact lens finder tool as it wasn’t used enough to justify the huge technical resource required to keep it running. However, this page is jam-packed with top tips and tricks to cut the cost of your contact lenses.
12 contact lens tips, including...
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 sellers.
It's all about getting exactly the same lenses as normal, following your prescription, but paying less. 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.
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
It says: "Your optometrist will advise you on the best contact lenses for you and the appropriate care regime. Wearers are advised to go for regular check-ups. However, if you notice changes to your vision, the way your eyes feel or the way your eyes look, you are advised to stop using your lenses immediately and make an appointment with your optometrist."
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.
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.)
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).
|Boots Premium Dailies||Ciba Vision||Focus Dailies All Day Comfort|
|Boots Premium Plus Dailies||Ciba Vision||Dailies Aqua Comfort Plus|
|Boots Premium Monthly||Ciba Vision||Air Optix|
|Boots Night & Day||Ciba Vision||Air Optix Night & Day|
|Boots Near & Far||Ciba Vision||Focus Progressives|
|Conlons Mirage Monthly Disposables||Coopervision||Biomedics 55 Evolution|
|Conlons Mirage Dailies||Ciba Vision||Focus Dailies|
Dollond & Aitchison
|D&A One Day Contact Lenses||Bausch & Lomb||Soflens Daily Disposable|
|D&A Mid Water 55 Contact Lenses||Coopervision||Biomedics 55 Evolution|
|D&A Freshview 58 UV||Coopervision||Frequency 55|
|D&A Freshview 73 UV||Coopervision||ActiFresh 400|
|Eye Clinic Daily Vision||Ciba Vision||Focus Dailies All Day Comfort|
|Eye Clinic CIEL XII UV||Coopervision||Biomedics 55 Evolution|
|Eye Clinic CIEL XII UV Toric||Coopervision||Biomedics Toric|
|Easyvision Daily Tearium (Standard)||Sauflon||NewDay|
|Easyvision Daily Opsys (Premium)||Ciba Vision||Focus Dailies All Day Comfort|
|Easyvision Daily Vitrea (Ultimate)||Ciba Vision||Focus Dailies Aqua Comfort Plus|
|Easyvision Daily Vusion (Elite)||Coopervision||Proclear One Day|
|Easyvision Monthly Classic (Standard)||Coopervision||Frequency 55|
|Easyvision Monthly Vusion (Premium)||Coopervision||Proclear Compatibles|
|Easyvision Monthly Classic Aspheric (Standard)||Coopervision||Frequency 55 Aspheric|
|Easyvision Monthly Irisian Sphere (Elite)||Ciba Vision||Air Optix Aqua|
|Easyvision Monthly Opteyes (Ultimate)||Coopervision||Biofinity|
|Easyvision Daily Clarison Toric (Premium)||Coopervision||Biomedics 1 Day Toric|
|Easyvision Monthly Irisian Toric (Elite)||Ciba Vision||Air Optix for Astigmatism|
|Easyvision Monthly Classic Toric (Standard)||Coopervision||Frequency Xcel Toric|
|Easyvision Monthly Opteyes Toric (Ultimate)||Coopervision||Biofinity Toric|
|Easyvision Monthly Aquaeyes (Elite)||Ciba Vision||Air Optix Night and Day|
|Easyvision Monthly Vusion Multifocal||Coopervision||Proclear Multifocal|
|Easyvision Monthly Irisian Multifocal||Coopervision||Air Optix Aqua Multifocal|
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 £43/month on Boots' monthly scheme. Yet you can get them online for around £400 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 £101.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. To work out how much duty and VAT you may have to pay, use this handy Duty Calculator.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.