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.

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 None. Available immediately
Throughput* Built for high-volume sending. Short codes are 7x faster for SMS messages. 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. US & Canada
MMS Capable Yes. Short codes are at least 10x faster for MMS. Yes
Cost Yes No

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

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