SMS Short Code Pricing

SMS short code pricing will vary depending on whether one is going to be applying for a dedicated short code or using a shared short code through a text messaging service provider. Other things that will influence SMS short code pricing is whether one is willing to use a randomly generated short code or if he requires a “select” or vanity short code. In this SMS short code pricing article we will look at the most popular methods for obtaining and using an SMS short code and the pricing that is affiliated with each.

What are SMS Short Codes?

An SMS short code is simply a shortened telephone number that is used for sending text messages (also called SMS, short message service, messages). In the United States a short code is 5 or 6 digits in length. To use a short code it must be leased through the CSCA (Common Short Code Administration) and then provisioned through the wireless carriers and will generally require the service of an aggregator to route the message between the application provider and wireless carrier. As you can imagine, there are costs associated with each party involved in the process of obtaining and using a short code (also called CSC, Common Short Code).

SMS Short Code Pricing – Leasing a Short Code

To put it simply, the CSCA charges $1,000 per month for the lease of a “select CSC”, a number you choose that you want for your short code, or $500 for a randomly generated short code. Often people think that they need to pick the number they want because they want it to spell a word (this is considered a vanity short code like Obama used in the Presidential election, 62262 corresponds with the letters OBAMA on a keypad) because they are afraid people won’t be able to remember a random code. However, people are often annoyed with having to figure out what letters correspond with a number when they are typing it in and would much prefer to just have an easy to remember number like 32323 or 23333. The CSCA provides a list of easy to remember numbers and cool words that are available for lease but these are considered “select CSC” and will be billed at the $1000 per month rate. When leasing a short code you will have to choose a time period for which you would like to lease the short code: 3, 6, or 12 month terms are available.

Typically you will only have to pay to lease a short code if you need a dedicated short code. Check out our Dedicated vs. Shared page for details on the difference between the two. You really only need a dedicated short code if you are going to be providing a text messaging service or if you will be sending out a very large volume of texts and don’t want anyone else using the same short code. For most intents and purposes a shared short code is adequate. Messages are routed on a short code through the use of a Keyword, a business can have multiple keywords on one short code and any message sent to the short code starting with that keyword will be directed to the platform for that specific business.

Short Code Pricing for Shared Short Code

Using a shared short code is much, much cheaper than leasing your own short code because the short code is already leased by the text messaging service provider and you will generally just pay a monthly fee for a set number of messages that you use. The price you pay can vary greatly depending on the text message marketing service you choose to use and the number of messages you will be sending every month. Some text message marketing services charge a setup fee, overage fees if you go over the monthly allotment, keyword fees, etc. Be sure to check into each of these fees before signing up with a provider because some providers don’t charge a set up fee and have a much lower per message cost than others. Let’s take a look at some averages:

  • 1,000 messages per month averages about $50 per month
  • Extra messages added average between $.04-$.07 per message
  • Most providers include 1 keyword, extra keywords run between $8-$25 per month
  • Many text message marketing providers do not have a setup fee but those that do range between $50-$100 on average

Obviously some provides charge much more than the average and some providers charge much less than the average. Be sure to find out exactly what is included in the text marketing plan you are considering and what extra charges you are likely to incur. Another thing to consider is how easy the platform is to use and what type of customer support is available. Because text marketing, and the use of short codes in general, is still fairly new and a lot of people don’t understand how it all works, having support available to answer any questions that come up is essential.

Additional SMS Short Code Pricing and Fees

Keep in mind that short code messaging is done strictly on an opt-in basis. What this means is that anyone sending any type of message through a short code to a mobile number MUST have permission from the user before sending any message. There are many ways to go about obtaining permission but the most common and preferred method is to advertise your keyword and short code and get the user to text the keyword into your short code, thus giving you permission. For instance a city government may say “Text city to 12345 to receive emergency alerts”.  The reason this is mandated is because not all mobile phone users have a text messaging plan and regular message and data rates apply to messages coming from a short code, just like they do coming from any other mobile number or email message. People often get confused by this thinking they are going to be charged “extra” for opting into a marketing campaign using a short code, which is not the case. If the user has a texting plan through their wireless subscriber they are not charged anything extra for receiving a message from a short code. (There are some “Premium Rate” short code services that will charge an extra fee for joining their campaign, but that is simply part of the marketing campaign and must be advertised and the billing for it would have to be worked out with each of the wireless carriers.)

On the flip side, as the business or organization sending the message, if you send a message to a mobile user without their permission you can be fined up to $500 per message that you sent to them. There is NO way around getting permission. You cannot buy phone lists or send text messages to random phone numbers, period! The only way for text message marketing to be successful and reach its full potential is for every user to abide by the rules and regulations set forth by the mobile marketing association and the CTIA (Cellular Telecommunication Industry Association).

As you can see, there are a number of options when is comes to SMS short code pricing. If you have very high volume needs and are interested in a dedicated short code but don’t have the time or means to create a platform to use it, check with some of the text message marketing providers. Some of them will, for a fee, allow you to use a dedicated short code with their platform. Just keep in mind you will be paying to lease the short code and then you will be paying all your messaging fees, wireless carrier fees, and other fees associated with using the text message marketing platform. Many of the text marketing providers will also provide high volume message plans that will likely meet your needs without requiring you to lease your own dedicated short code.