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Picture this: Your contact lenses are running low, and you soon realize that your last prescription has expired. With a busy week ahead, squeezing in a visit to the eye doctor would be a struggle.

That’s when online retailers like 1-800 Contacts can be a great help. They offer convenient, virtual eye exams that you can complete from your own home, enabling you to quickly restock your contacts without leaving the house.

This article reviews who can take a 1-800 Contacts Express Exam, what it’s like, and how it stacks up with in-person exams and other online alternatives.

The 1-800 Contacts Express Exam is an online eye exam read by a licensed ophthalmologist in your state. You take it in the comfort of your own home, allowing you to get a valid contact lens prescription renewal in a jiffy.

However, know that it’s not a comprehensive eye exam like the one you’d receive by visiting an eye doctor. It’s also only good for contact lens prescriptions, not for glasses.

The exam is designed to take just 10 minutes and you’ll receive your prescription within 24 hours.


  • quick exam, taking around 10 minutes
  • can be done from home
  • no appointment needed
  • doctors offer prescriptions for different lens brands
  • set price of $20
  • lens return policy includes free shipping and exchanges


  • only a prescription renewal service, not a complete eye health exam
  • requires a phone or computer with a microphone and camera
  • no option to get a prescription for glasses
  • not a replacement for an in-person visit to an eye doctor
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Here’s what to expect from the process.

1. Get ready

Before taking the test, make sure that you:

  • have your current contact lens prescription handy
  • are wearing your contact lenses
  • have access to a computer or smartphone with a camera and microphone
  • have 10 feet (3 meters) of space available
  • have a credit card or a card of similar size ready, which is used to calibrate your screen

Then, head to the 1-800 Contacts website.

Step 2: Answer a questionnaire

You’ll first answer a few questions about your age, location, and prior contact lens experience to ensure that you’re eligible for the online exam.

Step 3: Take a few pictures

You’ll be asked to take a few pictures of your eyes. This allows the ophthalmologist to look for any signs of redness or irritation.

Step 4: Read aloud

Next, you’ll stand 10 feet (3 meters) away from your computer or smartphone while wearing your current contacts. You’ll read aloud a series of letters to help the doctor determine if you can see clearly with your existing prescription.

Step 5: Confirm your current contacts

Finally, you’ll enter the details about the contacts you wore during the exam. In a few business hours, you’ll be contacted with your renewed prescription or informed if there were any issues.

Who’s eligible?

To take advantage of the 1-800 Contacts online eye exam, you need to be a current contact lens wearer.

You must also be between the ages of 18 and 64 and live in a state that approves this type of service. Currently, the service is unavailable in Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia. It’s also limited to those 18 to 55 years old in Maine, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Indiana.

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1-800 Contacts has been accredited with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 1995 and holds an A+ rating with the organization. However, out of 61 customer reviews with the BBB, it only averages 1.93 out of a possible 5 stars. According to the BBB there have been 59 complaints closed in the last 3 years and 29 in the last 12 months.

Out of 218 customer ratings on Trustpilot, 1-800 Contacts average 2.3 out of 5 stars or a “poor” rating. (According to the site 38 percent of the ratings were 5 star, while 53 percent were only 1 star.)

1-800 Contacts have also been involved in some court battles over advertising and competitive keyword ads. The FTC has had some blistering things to say about 1-800 Contacts advertising practices and has even gone so far as to sue the company over their agreements with rival online contact lens sellers.

Once you have a valid prescription, ordering contacts from 1-800 Contacts is quick and easy.

Step 1: Search the website for your brand

First, locate your preferred brand from those listed on the website.

Step 2: Enter your prescription information

Then, enter your prescription and upload a picture of it.

If you’ve misplaced your prescription, no need to worry. If it’s from an outside ophthalmologist or optometrist, simply provide their contact information to 1-800 Contacts, who will request your prescription on your behalf.

Step 3: Check your mailbox

After placing your order, your contacts will be shipped for free. What’s more, 1-800 Contacts promise to beat any competitor’s price on your lenses.

If you need to return your new contact lenses due to a change in prescription — or for any other reason — you can exchange unopened packets for free, shipping included. Additionally, if you tear a lens, 1-800 Contacts will send a replacement for free.

A real experience

If you’re interested in trying out 1-800 Contacts but worry that the service is too good to be true, rest assured that Healthline Senior Editor Megan Severs was more than satisfied when she used the website for an online exam and to purchase lenses in 2020.

She found the process quick and easy and was happy to find that her contacts arrived without much waiting. She even received convenient updates when it was time to order more, helping her make sure she didn’t run out again.

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1-800 Contacts vs. in-person

Know that the Express Exam from 1-800 Contacts isn’t a complete eye health exam or a substitute for in-person eye exams.

While the prescription you receive may match what your doctor would prescribe in person, the Express Exam is a renewal service only. The strength testing isn’t as detailed as what you receive when visiting an optometrist or eye doctor in person.

Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that the 1-800 Contacts doctors don’t test your eye health during an Express Exam.

1-800 Contacts vs. competitors

CostContacts or glasses?Exam timePrescription ready
1-800 Contacts$20contacts10 minutes24 hours
Discount Contacts.comfreeboth (glasses through Discount Glasses.com)15 minutes 24 hours
Lens.com$30both10 minutes24 hours
Warby Parker$15both 10 minutes 48 hours

While the price and format of the 1-800 Contacts Express Exam are similar to online eye exams offered at other websites like Lens.com, 1-800 Contacts doesn’t update prescriptions for glasses. If you wear glasses, getting both prescriptions at once can be handy, and you may want to explore virtual options that offer both.

How does the 1-800 Contacts eye exam work?

You’ll answer a few questions to determine if you’re eligible. Then, you’ll take some pictures of your eyes and stand 10 feet back from your phone or computer to read a series of letters. Finally, you’ll answer some questions about the contacts you were wearing as you took the test.

A licensed ophthalmologist in your state will look at everything and your renewed prescription will be ready within a few business hours.

Does 1-800 Contacts do glasses prescriptions?

No. You’ll have to use a different option, like Warby Parker, if you would like a glasses prescription.

Which states allow online eye exams?

Online eye exams are currently allowed in 37 states. These include: AL, AK, CA, CO, CT, FL, HI, IA, IL, KS, KY, MA, ME, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NV, NY, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, and WY.

Can I use a 1-800 Contacts prescription elsewhere?

Your 1-800 Contacts prescription is from a board certified ophthalmologist and valid to use anywhere in the United States.

If your contact lenses are running low and you don’t have time for an in-person visit any time soon, a virtual exam to renew your prescription can be a lifesaver.

1-800 Contacts is one of many websites that offer this service. Although their Express Exam isn’t as comprehensive as an in-person consultation, it’s fast, affordable, and provides you with a valid prescription that allows you to reorder new contacts ASAP.

That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that this service isn’t a replacement for regular, in-person visits to an eye doctor.

Further, if you don’t already have a recent contact lens prescription or are unable to see clearly with your current lenses, you’ll need to rely on another type of virtual exam or visit an eye doctor in person instead.

Catherine Crider, CD/PCD(DONA), CLEC, CBE, JD, MEd, has worked with children for the past decade as a trained elementary and special education teacher, and finds special joy in supporting blossoming families and their infants. She enjoys educating new parents and parents-to-be about their different options as well as the current best practices in baby care. Catherine writes for various websites and teaches full-spectrum childbirth and postpartum education in several locations in California’s North Bay Area and Peninsula.