Cheap contact lenses
Halve the annual cost of lenses
Don't make a spectacle of yourself paying eye-watering sums for contacts. Buying from specialist suppliers can slash annual costs by £100+, while it's possible to chop a third off laser eye-surgery.
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.
Unfortunately we've 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.
Buy online to slash costs by £100s
This is all about getting exactly the same lenses as normal, but paying less. Just like a DVD of Disney's Frozen, the same contact lenses may be sold by many sellers.
Specialist online suppliers bulk-buy directly from manufacturers and sell from warehouses, meaning there are no expensive property overheads, and they often undercut the high street. So ask for a copy of your prescription (you've a legal right to it), and find which online discounter sells your normal lenses cheapest.
Daily disposable contact lenses start from £86 for a pack of 90 pairs at Vision Express. Yet shop around online and you could pay as little as £43.50 (incl delivery) – a saving of £42.50 over three months.
You've a right to get a copy of your prescription
It's all about getting exactly the same lenses as normal, following your prescription, but paying less. No reputable online retailer will 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). 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 have far less protection if something goes wrong.
Look after your eyes with regular check-ups
If you're buying online, it's vital to get regular aftercare – 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's 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.
The College of Optometrists 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."
Wear own-brand lenses? You can still compare
If you use own-brand lenses from a shop, such as Boots or Specsavers, you might think you're stuck with that store. Yet a lot of high street optician chains sell manufacturers' contact lenses under their own branding. For example, Boots Premium Dailies are Ciba Vision Focus Dailies All Day Comforts in disguise.
This means you can save by buying the same product but with the manufacturer's name and packaging. That's right, we're telling you to consider switching from own-brand to a manufacturers' brand – unusual for MSE, we know.
Online retailers are allowed to dispense the manufacturer's alternative, even if the high street brand is on your prescription.
The online lens seller Lenstore has a full list of what your optician's lenses are called.
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, One-Day Acuvue moist lenses cost £31/month on Boots' monthly scheme. Yet you can get them online for around £300 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 £57 over a year.
Remember though many high street opticians also offer money off glasses, free sight tests and annual health checks, so they can be cost-effective if you'll use all the extras.
Reclaim the costs on a healthcare cash plan
There's a further way to cut lens costs. Healthcare cash plans 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 Cash Plans guide.
How to check online sellers are legit
To check, ask the seller who its registered optician is, then check the name against the General Optical Council's register.
Know your consumer rights
The Consumer Contract Regulations mean that when you buy goods online, you've 14 days to cancel and 14 days after that to return. 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.
These are EU regulations, so the Consumer Contract 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
- 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.
Get laser eye-surgery for less
It's possible to pay for some or all of your surgery at Optimax laser eye clinics 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 in theory, you could get a £1,700 treatment for £570 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.
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