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Costco is already your go-to for bulk discounts, like giant bottles of shampoo, mega-packs of batteries, and that roll of Christmas wrapping paper that’s gotten you through five seasons and counting. And even though you’ve stocked up on vitamins and cold medicine, you likely have yet to explore one of the warehouse club’s major health offerings: Costco Optical.
Yes, you can get an eye exam and buy your glasses or contacts in the same visit in which you’re picking up your year’s supply of kitchen trash bags. But will you enjoy the same level of service and savings on eyeglasses that you do in other Costco departments?
If you’re due for your next eye exam, it could be worth looking into Costco Optical — and not just because you can treat yourself to a $1.50 Costco hot dog afterward. But how much money can you really save on glasses there? How do Costco optometrists stack up to those in private practice or at well-known eyeglass chains? And what services can you use if you’re not a Costco member?
We did all the research to help you decide if switching to Costco Optical will make financial sense.
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1. Six out of seven Costco warehouses have a Costco Optical department.
If you’ve shopped at Costco, you may have noticed an area called Costco Optical. In this part of the warehouse, you can get an eye examination, pick out and order prescription eyeglasses, or buy contact lenses. The Costco Optical area looks similar to other eyeglass chains or optometrist offices you’ve visited, only a bit smaller.
While they may not have as large of a selection as places like LensCrafters, Costco Optical does carry a good range of brand-name designer frames and many different types of contact lenses.
Not every Costco has an optical department, though. Online sleuthing indicates about 500 locations exist throughout the U.S. (out of 583 total locations). If you want to check one out for yourself, search the Costco website to find a location near you.
TIP: Be sure to check the hours of operation, as the Costco Optical department typically closes a bit earlier than the warehouse itself.
2. Eyeglass wearers love Costco Optical for the price, customer service, and speed.
In a 2019 Consumer Reports survey, respondents named Costco Optical the No. 1 place to buy eyeglasses. The survey was based on a number of factors including price, customer service, follow-up, convenience, and speed.
It’s also no fly-by-night operation: Costco Optical brought in $1.4 billion in sales last year, second only to Walmart’s optical department as far as big-box store eye services go.
3. Their optometrists don’t work for Costco.
Costco Optical refers to their optometrists as Independent Doctors of Optometry. In other words, though they work in a Costco location, they aren’t employed by Costco. For that reason, prices for eye exams and even the types of insurance accepted may vary by location (more on that in a bit).
Also worth noting: while they may accept walk-ins for an eye exam, it’s always best to call ahead for an appointment since each location may have different policies.
4. You don’t have to be a member to get an eye exam at Costco Optical.
Anyone can see the eye doctors at Costco — remember, they are independent operators. When you reach the front entrance where people usually have to show their membership cards to get in, let the associate know that you’re there for an eye exam and they’ll let you in.
As for buying glasses or contacts, that is a members-only privilege. However, if you have a Costco membership, you can purchase contacts online for someone else, as long as you have a valid prescription to upload.
Related: Is Costco membership worth it? We found out how much food, wine, and gas you’d need to buy.
5. You can buy glasses without getting an eye exam at Costco Optical.
Though most people have their eyes examined and then pick out frames at the same location, there’s no obligation to do both at Costco Optical. You can come in with a prescription from another optometrist and just use Costco Optical to order new glasses.
Or you can get your eye exam done at Costco and then take your prescription elsewhere to order glasses. Up to you!
Related: Save on eyewear with these tips.
6. Costco glasses and eye exams are pretty affordable.
Customers say the real savings of Costco Optical kick in with the eyewear. One Costco optician on Reddit reported that frames, lenses, and contacts are only marked up 1% over cost. If that’s truly the case, that means Costco offers very competitive pricing indeed.
In most cases, Costco also lets you bring in your own frames and will cut your new prescription lenses to the right size (assuming the frames are in good condition). You may be charged a small fee for this, but it’ll be way cheaper than buying a whole new pair of glasses.
7. You can use your vision insurance at Costco.
Costco accepts most vision insurance plans like VSP and Davis, but different locations may accept different plans, so you’ll want to call ahead.
If you have a Flexible Savings Account, you can also find FSA-eligible eyewear and contacts for sale on the Costco website.
Related: Did you know you can use your Health Savings Account (HSA) to buy reading glasses, eyeglass cleaning kits, and contact lens solution?
8. You may snag a deal from time to time — especially if you buy in bulk.
Specials may pop up here and there at Costco Optical, such as a discount if you’re buying two pairs of glasses. Recently we saw a great deal on a 90-pack of Kirkland Signature Daily Disposable contact lenses. When ordering online through Costco Optical, if you buy four boxes, you get a discount of $35, while eight boxes saves you $90.
TIP: I have it on good authority (my mom!) that if you buy Costco’s eyeglass cleaning kit, you can bring the bottle into the optical department anytime and they will refill the solution for free!
9. Glasses cost an average of $185 at Costco Optical — 54% less than other chains and retailers.
Just like in most places, glasses at Costco Optical can have a wide range of pricing. To start, it depends on the frames you choose. If you go with the Kirkland brand, you will pay less than if you choose designer lenses.
From there, your prescription’s complexity can bump up the price. Single lens prescriptions are less than bifocals, with progressive lenses being the most expensive. Options like anti-glare, polarized, or blue anti-reflective lenses will cost more, too.
All that said, Consumer Reports found that the average cost of glasses at Costco (paid out of pocket) came in around $185. Though it’s not the cheapest around (online retailers tend to have lower prices, for instance), it’s considerably lower than the $400 range that you’ll find at some eyeglass chains or independent stores. That’s a 54% difference in average price!
10. You can return glasses or contact lenses to Costco if you’re not satisfied.
You can return contact lenses to the Optical Department of any Costco location. If you ordered online and can’t get to a store, you can start the process online. As long as you haven’t opened or used the contact lenses, Costco will issue you a refund.
As for glasses, if something isn’t fitting quite right or the prescription seems off, head back to Costco Optical to get your glasses readjusted or tweaked to your liking — free of charge. If they made a mistake with your order, they’ll replace the glasses for you at no cost. But don’t expect to get a refund or replacement if you’ve simply changed your mind about the prescription glasses you picked out.
Related: Have more questions about what you can and can’t bring back to Costco? Read our guide to the Costco return policy.