What Is an SMS Short Code?

A short code is a 5 or 6 digit SMS number that businesses use to communicate with users who opt-in to their text message program. Users text a corresponding keyword to the short code to subscribe and receive SMS and MMS messages to their mobile phone. 5-Digit SMS short codes are limited to numbers between 20000 and 99999. 6-Digit short code are limited to numbers between 200000 and 999999.





AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and other major wireless carriers developed SMS short codes as an alternative to regular 10-digit mobile phone numbers. Compared to traditional 10-digit phone numbers, SMS short codes are much easier for consumers to read and recall as they are about half the length.

Dedicated vs. Shared Short Codes

In the United States, there are two types of SMS short codes. The first type of short code is a dedicated short code. A dedicated short code is owned and exclusively used by a single brand or organization. 

The second type of SMS short code is a shared short code. Shared short codes are owned by an SMS software provider and shared between many different brands and organizations. With some short codes shared between thousands of different brands or organizations, the resulting cost per user can be low.

An SMS software provider will assign a unique SMS keyword to each brand or organization to avoid messaging issues between brands and organizations using the same shared short code. Unique SMS keywords allow the software provider to determine which SMS campaign a consumer is trying to interact with.

To illustrate a shared short code example, we’ll use the shared short code 373737. In this situation, there are two businesses, a quick-service restaurant, and an oil change service. These businesses both use the shared short code 373737. To avoid messaging issues, they use their own unique keywords, “FRIES” and “OIL” respectively. 

For more information on the difference between dedicated short codes and shared short codes, click here.


Vanity vs. Non-Vanity Short Codes

Vanity short codes are 5 to 6 digit short codes that are specifically selected by a brand. Vanity short codes are sometimes chosen over non-vanity short codes because the brand or organization has more control over the selection of digits, so it can choose a number that is easier for consumers to recall. For example, vanity short codes would be numbers like 12345, 313131, 711711, etc. The base price of any vanity short code costs $1,000 per month.

Compared to vanity short codes that are selected by the brand, non-vanity short codes are generated at random by the CSCA and then approved for use. For example, non-vanity short codes would be numbers like 39732, 958372, 34930, etc. The base price for non-vanity short code costs $500 per month.

Did you know that there are more non-vanity short codes than vanity short codes! The reason is because a lot of short codes are used for computer-to-computer messaging, so there’s no real good reason to secure a good looking short code for that type of messaging.


SMS Short Code Lookup

The U.S. Short Code Directory was built to allow consumers to lookup any SMS short code number in the United States. To start your SMS short code search, click here.


SMS Short Code Costs

If you’re looking to get your own SMS short code, you’ll need to get a dedicated SMS short code. These short codes can range in price between $500 and $1,000/month. If you want to select your own SMS short code number, it will cost $1,000/month. If you’re ok with a randomly generated SMS short code number, it will cost $500/month. For more information on SMS short code costs, click here.


SMS Short Code Uses

SMS short codes can be used for a variety of different purposes, including the following. For a full list of the different ways that brands are using SMS short codes, click here.