Answers to your most common SMS short code questions.
What is the U.S. Short Code Directory?
For a business to text message a consumer on their mobile phone, they have to use a unique 5-6 digit phone number called an SMS short code.
The U.S. Short Code Directory (USSCD) has indexed all of these SMS short codes, creating the first publicly available short code address book. The short code directory includes information on short code ownership, usage, and campaign support information.
What are the functions of the U.S. Short Code Directory?
The U.S. Short Code Directory (USSCD) functions include the following:
- Maintaining a publicly accessible SMS short code directory, which contains the ownership and usage information for short codes in the United States.
- Providing short code resources that are publicly available, giving people the ability to learn about the short code industry.
- Assisting brands and organizations in the acquisition of their own SMS short codes through the Common Short Code Administration (CSCA).
How do I request a change to the directory?
Public comments are a vital element in maintaining the U.S. Short Code Directory (USCD), whereby the community is given an opportunity to comment upon the information found in the directory.
We encourage the public to contact the directory if they believe an error has been made in the directory. To the contact the USSCD, use the contact form here.
When submitting comments, please identify the short code, explain the nature of the error, and recommend an appropriate remedy. Submitting comments to the directory requires adherence to USSCD’s Expected Standards of Behavior.
Where can I find more information about the U.S. Short Code Directory?
For more information on the U.S. Short Code Directory (USSCD), the staff, and our mission, visit our About Us page.
Selecting a Short Code
What are the benefits of a dedicated short code?
There are many benefits to a dedicated short code, some of these benefits are listed below. To discuss if a dedicated short code is the best fit for your business or organization, contact us to discuss.
- Brand Recognition: Just as customers come to recognize a brand's website address, 1-800 number, or social media handles, so will they with a brand's SMS short code. Dedicated short codes provide complete exclusivity of the short code number.
- SMS Keyword Exclusivity: With a dedicated short code, brands are free to use any imaginable SMS keyword, allowing for maximum creativity, and functionality.
- Brand Security: Dedicated short codes allow brands the ability to control the entire consumer experience from end to end. Dedicated codes ensure the consumer's mobile messaging experience is consistent with brand expectations.
- Security: Dedicated short codes provide organization’s in the financial services, healthcare and government sectors a high level of security, and maximum control.
- Activity Control: Dedicated short codes allow brands to have complete control of how their short code is used. Control in this instance is critical for any national brand.
- Scalability: When it comes to mass text messaging, messaging speed is critical. Dedicated short codes allow your brand to have direct access to wireless carriers.
- Data Ownership: By utilizing a dedicated SMS short code, a brand will have unfettered access to the SMS messages you and your customer exchange, allowing for them to have complete insight into their communications.
- Database Portability: Customers come to know and expect your brand's messages on a specific short code number. It's important for brands to own that number in the case of a migration to another SMS provider.
- Expanded Functionality: With a dedicated short code, your brand can run certain types of text messaging campaigns, that would not be possible on a shared short code. For example, a dedicated short code would allow your brand to run a text messaging campaign where customers could simply text message you their email addresses. This type of campaign functionality is only available when you have a dedicated short code.
- Increased Messaging Throughputs: When a brand uses a dedicated short code, they're getting exclusive access to their own messaging server, ensuring that they get the highest messaging throughputs available, without any slowdown in messaging speeds.
I'm ready to select a short code, who do I contact?
The U.S. Short Code Directory (USSCD) was established to assist brands and organizations in the acquisition of their own SMS short codes through the Common Short Code Administration (CSCA).
For more information on getting your very own short code, click here.
What are some good tips to selecting a good short code?
Selecting the right short code for your text messaging campaign can be one of the most important thing you do in setting up your campaign. For help in selecting the best short code for radio, print, or online advertising, it's best to contact the experts at the U.S. Short Code Directory, and let them help you select the best short code.
Short Code Pricing
How much does a SMS short code cost?
Short codes vary in price depending on the type of short codes you're looking to lease. For more information on leasing your very own short code, and for pricing, click here.
Can I buy a short code, rather than lease it?
Unfortunately you can't buy a short code in the United States. All short codes in the United States are leased to businesses and organizations to use.
How can I lease a short code?
The U.S. Short Code Directory (USSCD) can assist your brand or organization in the acquisition of your very own SMS short codes through the Common Short Code Administration (CSCA).
For more information on leasing short codes, and short code pricing information, click here.
Can I lease more than one short code at a time?
Yes, a business or organization can purchase as many short codes as they want. For bulk pricing discounts on short codes, please contact the U.S. Short Code Directory.
How can I pay for a short code lease?
The U.S. Short Code Directory (USSCD) accepts either a credit card or check for short code lease payments. To discuss payment options for a short code, please contact the USSCD.
Short Code Uses
Can short codes be used to collect donations?
Yes, SMS short codes can be used to collect donation. For more information on using short codes to collect text message donations, click here.
To discuss your options for text message donations via short code, please contact the U.S. Short Code Directory.
Can short codes be used for political messaging?
Yes, SMS short codes can be used for political messaging. To discuss your options for using a short code for political text messaging, please contact the U.S. Short Code Directory.
Who provides the software to manage a short code?
Great question, because after you purchase your SMS short code from the U.S. Short Code Directory (USSCD), you'll need to select an SMS software provider to not only host your short code, but provide you with the software that will allow you to send and receive message on your short code.
To discuss your options for the best SMS marketing software provider for your unique use case, contact the SMS marketing experts at the USSCD.
Will my short code work outside the United States?
Unfortunately a U.S. short codes will only work for messaging here in the United States. If you're looking to purchase a short code to be used outside the United States, please contact us for a recommended short code provider in your country.
Can nonprofits use short codes?
Yes, a nonprofit can use a short code. Qualifying nonprofits also receive a discount on regularly advertised short code prices. For more information on short codes for nonprofits, and how to receive your nonprofit discount, click here, or contact the U.S. Short Code Directory.
Are there any restrictions on things I can't use a short code for?
There are certain restrictions to how you can use a short code in the United States. For more information on short code restrictions, and help in determining if you can use a short code for whatever purpose you're looking to use your short code for, contact the U.S. Short Code Directory.
Do short codes work on all mobile phones?
The following wireless carriers in the United States support short code messaging. For more information on supported short codes, click here.
- Cincinnati Bell
- Sprint Cricket (Leap Wireless)
- United States Cellular Corp
- C Spire Wireless (aka Cellular South)
- Metro PCS (including subsidiary PTA-FLA)
- Virgin Mobile
- Boost Mobile
- Union Telephone
- TracFone (AT&T)
- West Central Wireless
- Bluegrass Cellular
- Carolina West Wireless
- Rural Independent Network Alliance (RINA)
- East Kentucky Network (Appalachian Wireless)
- Illinois Valley Cellular
- Inland Cellular
- Nex Tech Communications
- Pine Cellular
- DTC Wireless
- Alaska Communications Systems (ACS)
- United Wireless
- GCI Communications
- Thumb Cellular
- Cross Wireless
- Chat Mobility
- Northwest Missouri Cellular
- Pioneer Cellular
- Panhandle Wireless
- Element Mobile
- Golden State Cellular
- Viaero Wireless
- Plateau Wireless
- Cellular One (Cellone Nation)
- Cleartalk (Flat Wireless)
- Epic Touch
- Mosaic Telecom
- Peoples Wireless
- Duet IP (Max. Wireless/Wireless Comm. Venture)
- Chariton Valley Cellular
- MobileNation/SI Wireless
- MTA Wireless/Matanuska
- Kenai SRT Communications
- US Aio Wireless
- Sagebrush Cellular
- Google Voice
Short Code Best Practices
Does the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) apply to short codes?
Yes, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or commonly know as the TCPA, applies to SMS short code marketing. It's important that before you start a text messaging program with a short code, that you understand the TCPA, and what is needed from your business to remain TCPA compliant.
For more information on TCPA compliance, or to discuss if your current text messaging program is compliant, click here to learn more, or contact the staff at the U.S. Short Code Directory.
What is the Cellular Telephone Industries Association (CTIA)?
The CTIA - The Wireless Association, or commonly known as the CTIA was setup by the wireless carriers to enforce SMS short code best practices that are in the best interests of the consumer.
To do this, the CTIA conducts short code audits on SMS programs based on the rules found in the CTIA Short Code Compliance Handbook. If an SMS program is found to be in violation of any of the guidelines in the CTIA Short Code Compliance Handbook, the text messag program will be deactivated by the wireless carriers unless resolved.
For information on the CTIA, you can visit their website here: www.ctia.org
What is the Common Short Code Administration (CSCA)?
The Common Short Code Administration, or commonly known as the CSCA, is the governing body for short codes in the United States. In addition, the CSCA oversees the technical and operational aspects of short code functions. For more information on the Short Code Administration, visit their website at www.usshortcodes.com.
What is the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA)?
MMA stands for the Mobile Marketing Association. This organization compiles a list of best practices for using short codes, that help brands understand how best to use short codes to communicate to consumers. You can visit the Mobile Marketing Association for more information here: www.mmaglobal.com
Is it legal to move customers to a new short code?
Yes. When moving customers from one short code to another short code, it's important that you follow the best practices in the CTIA Short Code Compliance Handbook. For detailed instructions, click here to learn about migrating SMS short codes.
The CTIA Short Code Compliance Handbook requires that when you move customers to new short code, you first text message customers on the current short code, telling them that you'll be moving short codes, and disclosing to them the new short code number.
Once customers have been moved to the new short code, the CTIA requires that you text message customers telling them that you've moved short codes, and give them the option to opt-out of future messages by reply "STOP" to the new short code.
What is a CTIA short code audit?
The CTIA stands for the Cellular Telephone Industries Association, which is tasked with enforcing the rules for short code usage. If a text messaging program is found in violation of the CTIA short code rules, a brand will be alerted by the CTIA that they failed a CTIA audit.
So what happens after one of your short code fails a CTIA audit?
The most important thing to know about a CTIA audit is that you want to fix the issue that caused the audit as soon as possible. If the issue that caused the CTIA short code audit is not fixed in a timely manner, it's very likely that the CTIA will deactivate the offending short code until the issue is resolved.
As always, the best way to avoid failing a CTIA audit is to make sure that your text messaging program always follows CTIA rules. For help understanding CTIA audits, click here, or contact the U.S. Short Code Directory staff here.
Short Code Common Terms
What is a SMS short code?
In the United States, an SMS short code is a 5-6 digit phone number used for commercial text messaging purposes, usually between a business or organization, and a consumer. A consumer will usually engage with an SMS short code by either text messaging an SMS keyword to the short code, or by entering their mobile phone number into a website form. Short codes in the United States are regulated by the Common Short Code Administration (CSCA). To lookup a short code, the owner, and how they're using the code, please see the United States Short Code Directory here. If you're interested in purchasing your own short code, visit our available short codes page to select a short code for purchase.
What is short code messaging?
Short code messaging is simply any text message, or multimedia message (MMS) that is transmitted to or from an SMS short code.
An SMS short code in the United States is a 4-6 digit phone number used for commercial text messaging purposes. Short codes in the United States are regulated by the Common Short Code Administration (CSCA). To lookup who owns a short code number, and how they're using that short code number, please see the Short Code Directory here.
What is a non-vanity short code?
In the United States, there are three types of SMS short codes. One type of short code is called a non-vanity short code. A non-vanity short code is a 5-6 digit phone number that is randomly generated and assigned to a business or organization. For example, non-vanity short codes would be numbers like 39732, 958372, 34930, etc., as they have no purposeful arrangement of numbers.
The other two types of SMS short codes in the United States are vanity short codes, and premium short codes.
For non-vanity short code pricing, click here.
What is a vanity short code?
Not only are there dedicated and shared short codes, there are also vanity, non-vanity, and premium short codes. Vanity short codes are 5-6 digits, and are specifically selected. Usually vanity short codes are selected over non-vanity short codes, because they're easier for consumers to remember the numbers. For example, vanity short codes would be numbers like 12345, 313131, 711711, etc.
For more information, including vanity short code pricing, click here.
What is a premium short code?
Premium short codes are 5-6 digits, and like vanity short codes, they're specifically selected. Unlike a vanity short code though, a premium short code is selected because the numbers on the mobile phone's keypad spell out a specific word, or phrase. Some premium short code examples are below.
- 248724 (CHURCH)
- 468357 (HOTELS)
- 44636 (4INFO)
- 529937 (LAWYER)
- 723389 (SAFETY)
- 72537 (SALES)
What is a shared short code?
There are two types of SMS short codes in the United States. The first and most common short code is a dedicated short code, which is owned and used by one brand or organization.
The second type of SMS short code in the United States is a shared short code, which is owned by an SMS software provider, and used by many different brands and organizations. To avoid messaging issues between brands and organizations all using the same short code, an SMS software provider will assign a unique SMS keyword to each brand or organization, allowing the software provider to determine which SMS campaign a consumer is trying to interact with.
For example, let's say there's a retail store, and a restaurant both using the shared SMS short code 12345. If consumers wanted to interact with the retail store's SMS campaign, they'd first have to text message the retail store's unique SMS keyword. For consumers that wanted to interact with the restaurant's SMS campaign, they'd have to text message the restaurant's unique SMS keyword.
To learn more about the differences between shared short codes and dedicated short codes, click here.
To see a complete directory of both dedicated and shared short codes in the United States, click here.
What is a dedicated short code?
There are two types of SMS short codes in the United States. The first type of short code is a shared short code, which is owned by an SMS software provider, and used by many different brands and organizations.
The second type of SMS short code in the United States is a dedicated short code, which means that it's owned and used by only business or organization. When it comes to mobile marketing, most large brands and organizations such as Foot Locker, Home Depot, Chipotle, ESPN, McDonald's, etc., have their own dedicated SMS short codes.
To learn more about the differences between shared short codes and dedicated short codes, click here.
To see a complete directory of both shared and dedicated short codes in the United States, click here.
What is a SMS Keyword?
An SMS keyword is what a consumer uses to initially interact with an SMS short code on their mobile phone. The SMS keyword is sent in a text message to a specific SMS short code, which will return a text message response based on what SMS campaign that keyword is associated with.
Some basic keywords used in compliance with the rules set out by the Cellular Telephone Industries Association (CTIA) include both HELP & STOP. The SMS keyword "HELP" should always return information about the SMS campaign, and the SMS keyword "STOP" should always unsubscribe a consumer from receiving future messages on that specific short code.
What is a mobile terminated message?
A mobile terminated message, or sometimes referred to as an "MT message" in the mobile marketing industry, is simply any message that is sent from a brand or organization, that is received by a consumer's mobile device.
What is a mobile originated message?
A mobile originated message, or sometimes referred to as an "MO message" in the mobile marketing industry, is simply any message that is sent from a consumer's mobile device, that is received by a brand or organization.
What does CSC stand for?
The Common Short Code Administration (CSCA) refers to a short code as "CSC", which is an abbreviation for "common short code".
What is a SMS content provider?
In SMS marketing, an SMS Content Provider is the brand or organization that is using the SMS short code to communicate with consumers. For a full list of SMS short codes in the United States, and the SMS Content Providers for each short code, click here.
What is a SMS aggregator?
An SMS aggregator provides the connection between the wireless carriers and the SMS marketing software providers, for receiving and transmitting text messages through an SMS short code. SMS aggregators include companies like OpenMarket, SAP, Mblox, etc.
For a list of SMS aggregators, click here.
What is a SMS application provider?
In SMS marketing, an SMS application provider provides brands and organizations the software to not only host their SMS short code, but receive and send text messages through their short code.
Ready to get your own short code?
The U.S. Short Code Directory (USSCD) is here to ensure that finding, and setting up a short code is as easy a possible. Learn more about purchasing a short code.