How Do I Get a Short Code?

SMS short codes are a requirement for SMS marketing. This short code is the functional phone number your campaign will use to communicate with your desired consumers. You need to follow the three-step process detailed below to acquire and provision your short code. One important note: there is no shortcut to a short code. Al SMS short codes are leased in the United States and can’t be bought outright.


Step 1: Lease A Short Code

When leasing a short code, you have two options. The first option is to lease a non-vanity short code, which is a 5-6 digit phone number randomly selected for you by the Short Code Registry. Non-vanity short codes would be numbers like 39732, 958372, 34930, and so on. Leasing a non-vanity short code costs $500 per month and is the cheapest option.

The other option is a vanity short code. This is 5-6 digit phone number selected specifically by you. Usually, businesses choose vanity short codes because they want to create numbers that are easier for consumers to remember. For example, vanity short codes would be numbers like 12345, 313131, 711711, and so on. Leasing a vanity short code costs $1,000 per month. The cost increase is due to the inherent value in customizability and the potential competition for memorable code combinations.

Once payment is received for your short code, whether it’s a non-vanity or vanity short code, the short code is yours to use.


Step 2: Submit A Short Code Application

After you’ve successfully leased a short code, you’ll need to submit a short code application. A short code application is a lengthy document that discloses to the wireless carriers your brand identity and your plans for the short code. Approval of this application is critical to launching a mobile messaging campaign, so the vast majority of brands will have either an application provider or SMS aggregator submit the application on their behalf. If done correctly, a short code application is accepted or denied within a few business days.

If the application is denied, the brand will have to resubmit a new short code application based on the wireless carrier’s feedback. This process can significantly delay the short code provisioning process, which is why most brands rely on a trusted partner to submit their short code application.


Step 3: Short Code Provisioning

Once a short code application has been approved, there’s one more step: the short code provisioning process.

The short code provisioning process is complicated and has a lot of moving parts. The steps below outline the requirements for provisioning a new short code.

  1. An SMS aggregator must host the short code. This sets the entire short code provisioning process in motion.
  2. Once the short code is hosted, it’s then connected to the various wireless carriers.
  3. After the short code is connected to the wireless carriers, you’ll need to file another short code application with the SMS aggregator. This new application details how the campaign will be advertised (the strategy), and what you’ll be sending to mobile subscribers (the content). This application will also require you to disclose message content for carrier-required messaging such as the HELP and STOP messages.
  4. After the SMS aggregator has approved the short code application, it’s then passed on to all the wireless carriers for their approval and subsequent testing.

Wireless carriers will turn on messaging for your new short code once they have approved the short code application. Not all wireless carriers work at the same speed; you’ll have to wait until all wireless carriers enable your short code before you can launch your mobile messaging campaign.

This process can be extremely challenging to navigate if you’ve never done it before, which is why we always recommend working with an experienced SMS provider who is skilled in moving through this process as effectively and efficiently as possible.

We hope this answered your short code question. If you have lingering questions, visit our Learning Center, where we’ve compiled a comprehensive database of information relevant to short codes and SMS marketing.