What Is a Non-Vanity SMS Short Code?

A non-vanity short code, or as referred to by the Short Code Registry as a random short code, is a 5-6 digit phone number that is randomly selected by the CSCA. This is different from vanity short codes, which are specifically selected by a brand. These non-vanity short codes cost $500/month to lease, while a dedicated short code costs $1,000/month to lease.

It’s very common for newcomers to SMS marketing to confuse the difference between vanity and non-vanity short codes, with dedicated short codes and shared short codes. When starting an SMS marketing campaign, the first choice you have to make is whether you’re going to use a dedicated short code, or a shared short code. A dedicated short code is a short code that your brand — and your brand alone — uses. A shared short code is a short code that your brand shares with several other brands. You would all use different keywords, but the number would be the same. (For more information on the difference between these two short codes, click here.)

Once you’ve decided between a dedicated short code or a shared short code, you then must decide on whether that short code will be a vanity short code, or a non-vanity short code. If you’re using a shared short code, the choice between a vanity or non-vanity short code will already have been made for you; the owner of the short code would have previously made this decision when purchasing the short code. If you decide to use a dedicated short code, meaning it’s your own short code, you’ll get the option between selecting a vanity or non-vanity short code.

If you’ve chosen a dedicated short code, and you want to select a non-vanity or random short code, you’ll first have to apply to lease a non-vanity short code. Once the application has been approved, you’ll then have to pay the $500/month required to lease the non-vanity short code. Once the short code lease payment has been received, the Short Code Registry will randomly select a 5 or 6 digit short code for you to use.

This short code selection process by the Short Code Registry is a completely random process. This means you can’t specifically request a 5-digit short code instead of a 6-digit short code, and you can’t request that your short code start with a certain number, or contain certain numbers. This is why the CSCA calls it a “random short code”, as the short code number is truly random. You don’t get to define it.

A Common Non-Vanity Short Code Misconception

One common misconception about non-vanity short codes is that all non-vanity short codes look like a random string of numbers. While this is usually the case, sometimes what appears to be a completely random set of numbers actually spells out a word or phrase on a phone’s dial pad.

One example of this is Arby’s SMS short code – 27297, as shown below). At first glance, it definitely looks like a non-vanity, or random short code. However, the short code 27297 actually spells the word “ARBYS” on a phone’s dial pad. Because Arby’s specifically selected this short code, this code is actually a vanity short code.


Non-Vanity Short Code Marketshare

The CTIA has reported that most short codes in the United States are random short codes. According to the CTIA, 60% of all active short codes are a random set of numbers, where only 40% are vanity short codes.

Non-Vanity Short Code Advantages

Why do brands select non-vanity short codes over vanity short codes? As discussed above, there is a significant price difference between leasing a vanity short code, and a non-vanity short code. A vanity short code lease will cost you $1,000/month, and non-vanity short code lease will cost you only $500/month.

Vanity short codes are usually preferred over non-vanity short codes for use in marketing campaigns, because they’re easier for consumers to remember.




An easy to remember short code is critical when you’re asking consumers to text an SMS keyword to your SMS short code. A vanity short code like 727272 (see the above RedBox example) will be much easier for consumers to remember, compared to a non-vanity short code like 150842. In most marketing campaigns, the higher cost of a vanity short code lease, compared to a non-vanity short code lease, is usually worthwhile, as it increases the amount of consumers interacting with the campaign. It’s just easier for consumers.

That being said, if the short code is not being used in a marketing campaign reliant on a consumer’s memory, a non-vanity short code may work just fine.

For example, if you’re sending messages like appointment reminders, fraud alerts, or even shipping notices (like in the example below), it really doesn’t matter how easy the short code is to remember, as it’s really a one-way communication.


For more information on non-vanity short code pricing, click here.