Comparing Short Code and Toll-Free Numbers

Postscript offers two options when it comes to your SMS texting number: a dedicated short code or a toll-free number (TFN).

In this article, we discuss the two options and highlight the differences between them.

What is a Short Code?

A short code is a 5 or 6-digit number a shop can use to send SMS and MMS messages to a subscriber's mobile device. You've likely seen a short code in a texting campaign, such as "Text FRIYAY to 56798." Here, 56798 is the short code. 

A short code is ideal for shops with a growing subscriber list who want fast, consistent delivery speeds.

Shops wishing to use a short code must apply for the short code, and the Postscript team is there to help every step of the way. This application process includes an audit of opt-in methods to ensure they meet TCAP and CTIA compliance guidelines. 

Short codes are dedicated, meaning the shop a short code is assigned to is the only entity allowed to send messages using that number. Shops can request a custom short code in their application.

   Note: When subscribers sign up for text message marketing, they opt-in to content specific to a single brand. This allows merchants to send hyperlinks to their brand's website and/or social media. Because consent is tied specifically to a single brand, sending hyperlinks from a dedicated short code that are not related to the specific brand's website or social media could lead to filtering.

What is a Toll-Free Number?

A toll-free number is a 10-digit number starting with (8XX) that a shop can use to send SMS and MMS messages to a subscriber's mobile device. You've likely seen a toll-free number in a texting campaign, such as "Text HOLIDAYS to 1-833-555-1234."

Postscript assigns a toll-free number to a shop once it's created in the application. You can view your shop's toll-free number on your Keywords page.

Short Codes vs. Toll-Free Numbers

To better visualize the differences between a dedicated short code and a toll-free number, we created a chart that breaks down what you need to know.

  Short Code Toll-Free Number
Format 5 or 6-digits (e.g., 543-21) 10-digit starting with (8XX) (e.g., 833-555-1234)
Approval Approx. 4-7 weeks via application Approx. 3-10 business days. Learn more here.
Throughput* Built for high-volume sending. Short codes are 7x faster for SMS messages and 10x faster for MMS messages on average. Think of an express lane on the highway—your messages fly through.  Economical deliverability and throughput. Think of a general highway—messages cruise along with other messages alongside.
Filtering  Reduced carrier filtering and faster resolution for erroneous carrier filtering. Shops can reduce filtering by complying with CTIA rules, TCPA requirements, and industry best practices. The least carrier filtering provided shop avoids banned subjects, follows compliant list growth/opt-out practices, and properly uses subscriber lists (i.e., SMS marketing). Slower resolution times with carriers for erroneous carrier filtering.
Availability  US only. Would need to use a TFN for Canada, UK, or Australia.

US and Canada only.

*Australian and UK long codes are also available.

MMS Capable

Yes. In the United States only.

Yes. In the United States only.

Yes, the cost of a short code is $750/month.

This cost is defined by the carriers. Postscript charges the exact fee from the carriers without any additional markup.

No. Toll-Free Numbers go through a verification process to reduce filtering.

Both the TFN itself and the verification process are free to Postscript brands.

*Throughput: The speed at which messages move through messaging pipelines.

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