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 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.

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.

There, 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.

Then, 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.

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.

Finally, you’ll enter the details about the contacts you wore during the exam. Within 24 hours, you’ll be contacted with your renewed prescription or informed if there were any issues.

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

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

After placing your order, your contacts will be shipped for free. What’s more, 1-800 Contacts promises 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.

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.

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.

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 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.