When to use short code vs Toll-Free sms

Occasionally our clients ask the difference between a Short Code and Toll-Free numbers, here are some important differences that will help you choose the right option:

Short Code

A short code is a five or six digit telephone number used to send and receive SMS and MMS messages to and from mobile phones.

Short codes can send higher volumes of messages, compared to long codes, so wireless carriers individually audit every short code for its intended use. While this approval process typically takes eight to twelve weeks, it means that short codes are not subject to carrier filtering. In fact, short codes are the only way to ensure deliverability of your messages without the risk of them being filtered by carriers.

Due to their high throughput, short codes are subject to a strict set of requirements. The CTIA has a list of rules that all short code programs must follow. For example, there are specific language requirements you must include in your advertisements, terms page, and messages. Interpretation and enforcement of these rules varies from carrier to carrier.

Examples of applications best suited to a short code include marketing communications, large one-to-many notification bursts, time-sensitive alerts, and high volumes of one-to-one transactional notifications.

Toll-Free SMS

Toll-Free Short Message Service (Toll-Free SMS) is used to send text messages from Toll-Free numbers (8XX) to other mobile phones. Use cases with a large volume of SMS marketing messages are not acceptable for Toll-Free.

Toll-Free messaging works best when your use case is person-to-person, such as customer support or sales, with both the sender and the recipient having a conversation via text. However, because Toll-Free numbers can support a higher throughput of messages per phone number than traditional ten-digit numbers, some businesses do choose to use Toll-Free numbers for one-way communications like alerts and notifications.

Short code or Toll-Free SMS?

When deciding between a short code and Toll-Free SMS, the important thing to keep in mind is that they rely on separate sets of infrastructure and spam filters. Though short codes both send and receive messages, the reality is that short code SMS is routed through a different infrastructure than Toll-Free SMS. Consequently, the deliverability of these two forms of communication can differ widely.

Short Code vs Toll-Free Comparison


If you have questions or would like to discuss our short code service contact us for more details.

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