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I've been a Costco member for 8 years, and one little-known perk makes it more than worth it

If you don't have insurance, Costco Optical may be your best out-of-pocket bet.

If you don't have insurance, Costco Optical may be your best out-of-pocket bet.

Costco stores are more than bulk shopping. They have a pharmacy, travel agents, and gas stations. Tucked in the back of my store, there's also an optical department.

I've worn eyeglasses and contact lenses for much of my life. When I first purchased my Costco membership, I needed to order contacts but didn't have vision insurance.

I called a few local opticians to get eye examination estimates and reached out to my nearest Costco for its pricing. While Costco accepts most insurance plans, it also provides affordable (usually within the $70 range) walk-in appointment rates for people without insurance for their annual checkups.

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Their optometrists are licensed — and they really care about your eyes.

Their optometrists are licensed — and they really care about your eyes.

My first-ever Costco eye appointment was with a specialist who had an OD. An OD is a doctor of optometry degree, which means that the person has completed optometry school and is licensed to perform eye exams and vision tests.

I immediately felt much more comfortable. If you're getting an air-puff test in a small room about 20 feet away from cooking hot dogs, it feels important to have a licensed specialist conducting the examination.

I have seen optometrists my entire life and was rarely told anything beyond the fact that I did not have 20/20 eyesight. That all changed during my first vision appointment at Costco, where I found out all sorts of new information about my eyes.

For example, I learned that I have astigmatism, which means that my eyes are more of a football shape than round. While the name sounds a little scary, it's not uncommon. I was also further educated on the base curve and diameter of my contact lenses.

When I left, I felt better than when I arrived, and that's a good sign at any health practitioner's office.

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Only Costco members receive exclusive online optical benefits.

Only Costco members receive exclusive online optical benefits.

There's more than one way to shop the optical department if you can't make it to your nearest Costco location. You can place contact lens orders over the phone, as long as you have your membership ID and credit card information.

Costco members can also order contact lenses online, choosing from a variety of major brands. You can save even more time by snapping a photo of your prescription and uploading the image to order your contacts faster.

Costco members also have access to exclusive online discounts for prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses.

I've acquired vision insurance since my first eye exam at Costco Optical eight years ago. But I still visit my favorite optometrist, located in the back room of my local Costco warehouse.

The price is right on eyeglasses and contact lenses, the staff is skilled and friendly, and I can get an appointment scheduled in as soon as the same day.

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