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Woman buying glasses at the optics during the pandemic and wearing a facemask
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10 Things to Know Before Using Costco Optical

What to Know About Costco

It's the place we go to buy snacks and other groceries in bulk, maybe score a deal on new tires, and even where we turn to book travel or rent a car. But many aren't aware that most Costco locations also have an optical department. If you didn't know this about the popular membership-only big-boxer — or didn't know enough about it to feel confident using it — rest easy. Here are the answers to your Costco Optical questions. 


You can apply here for Costco membership.


Related: Costco by the Numbers: 22 Surprising Stats


Does every Costco location have an optical department?

There are about 800 Costco locations worldwide, and about 500 of them have an optical department. Chances are good that includes your local Costco but call ahead to be sure, or search locations on the website to find the Costco Optical nearest you. 


What services and products does Costco Optical offer? 

Most Costco optical locations have an independent doctor of optometry on staff. Contact lens brands available at Costco include:

  • Acute
  • Biofinity
  • Dailies Total
  • Ultra
  • Kirkland Signature (the store's own brand)

  • And many others 

Many of the sunglasses carried by Costco Optical are from designer brands, including:

  • Alexander McQueen
  • Balmain

  • Oakley

  • Saint Laurent

  • Stella McCartney

  • Swarovski

  • XOXO

  • And others — the full selection can be found here

Costco optical also has a range of reading glasses: about 32 products — many in multi-pack options — in a range of styles and colors. 


Finally, the retailer's optical department also offers options that are important to corrective eyewear buyers, including:

  • HD progressive and polarized lenses
  • Transitions photochromic lenses
  • Blue-light blocking technology
  • Anti-reflective lenses 
  • 1.60 high-index lenses
  • Universal-fit frames
  • Multi-functional lenses

One little eye test goes a long wayPhoto credit: PeopleImages/istockphoto

Do I need a Costco membership to see an optometrist? 

Anyone can book an optometry exam at Costco, member or non-member. Walk-ins are welcome (just let the front door minder know you're there for an eye appointment), but appointments are encouraged.  


How much does a Costco eye exam cost?

Costco doesn't list exam costs on its website, but most online reports note that an eye exam there costs around $75 to $80. VisionCenter.org puts the cost closer to $70 (and around $150 for a contact lens exam), which is also lower than the national average of $95. Call ahead to your local Costco optical department to verify the exact cost. 


Do I need a Costco membership to purchase glasses or contacts? 

Yes. While you don't need a membership to get an eye exam, you will need one to purchase any of the optical department's products. 


Not a Costco member yet? You can sign up here for both the Gold Star Membership ($60) and the Gold Star Executive Membership ($120).


Can I use my vision insurance there? 

Most major vision insurance plans are accepted at Costco. According to our research, this includes:

  • VSP
  • EyeMed

  • Blue Shield

  • FEP BlueVision

  • Spectera

  • MES Vision

  • United Healthcare

  • VBA Vision 

If your coverage isn't on that list, call or visit your local Costco to verify that your provider is accepted. Note that discount plans are not eligible at Costco. 


What is the frame selection like?

The frame selection at Costco (and, for that matter, any big-box retail vision center) is likely to be more limited than your neighborhood vision center, but the retailer does offer some major brands such as:

  • Fendi
  • Burberry
  • Bebe
  • Veneta
  • Bottega
  • Tod's
  • Mikli
  • Kirkland Signature 

What is Costco Optical's customer service like?

With a big-box retailer like Costco, it can be difficult to gauge customer service, and of course, that service can vary from location to location. That said, this Reddit thread has a lot of good information in it, and most posters note positive experiences. Costco also received top marks in a Consumer Reports 2019 survey of more than 65,000 participants for service. 


costco eye centerPhoto credit: Vanessa L./Yelp


Can I save money by buying corrective eyewear at Costco Optical?

Many online sources report that the average cost of lenses and frames at Costco Optical is around $184, which is only slightly lower than what VisionCenter.org notes is the average price for new glasses: $195. 


In fact,a 2019 Consumer Reports reader survey found that "some retailers charge more than $400 for a pair of glasses, and more than one-third of the eyeglass retailers in our survey received the lowest rating for their prices." Costco, on the other hand, was the only retailer to score top marks on price in both the eyeglasses and contacts department. 


A couple of comments from the above-referenced Reddit thread on cost include: 


"Optical employee here … frames, lenses, and contacts are only marked up 1% over cost — I've had members tell me that a comparable pair of glasses from another chain costs more than ours, even after applying insurance claims to the competitor."


"I've used Costco Optical only for contact lens … the savings from that alone paid for my membership."


So, is Costco Optical worth it? 

We'd say yes. (Full disclosure: This writer has purchased many pairs of frames and lenses from Costco Optical.) You can save a fair bit of money, enough even to make back your membership cost). The process, too, is more straightforward than we've experienced at doctor's offices and independent eyeglass shops, which often seem to throw numbers at you in rapid succession, making for a confusing and intimidating experience. 


Related: 12 Costco or Sam's Purchases That Make Back the Membership Fee


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