Long Codes vs. Toll Free vs. Short Codes

SMS is still the most trusted way for customers to communicate with companies. One of the best parts about using SMS in your communications strategy is that it gives you different options to connect with your customers: long codes, short codes, and toll-free numbers. So, which one should you use? While all of these options can be effective, selecting the right option for the right type of message can be confusing. Here’s what to know.

  Long Codes Toll Free Numbers Short Codes
What is it? Standard 10-digit number that can be text-enabled Voice-only that can be text-enabled 5-6 digit numbers used for any type of A2P messaging
Limitations Limited to sending 1 message every 2 seconds Limited to sending up to 10 SMS per second Limited to sending up to 30 SMS per second
Set-Up Time Minutes Minutes 6 to 14 weeks
Pre-Approval Requirements No No Yes
Other Comments Strict carrier filtering on content, sending rates, and outbound to inbound ratios Existing voice-only Toll-free numbers can be text-enabled; Moderate carrier filtering IntelePeer supports dedicated random or dedicated vanity short code
Best Used For Person-to-Person (P2P) such as customer service, and non-marketing messages Application-to-Person (A2P) such as customer service, alerts, and non-marketing messages Application-to-Person (A2P) such as marketing campaigns, high volume reminders, and notifications
Delivery Reports Carrier Handset Handset

Why use a Long Code

Long Codes are a great choice for many businesses looking to quickly bring SMS into their communication strategy. Long Codes are perfect for providing a personalized customer experience. Here are a few use cases in which long code comes in handy:

  • 1-on-1 customer communication
  • Provide customer service using SMS
  • Possibility to text-enable existing phone numbers to keep your number consistent across all channels and build trust with your audience

Note: Long Codes cannot be used for marketing and can send only 1 message every 2 second. For information on Verizon’s 10 DLC change click here. For more information on AT&T's 10 DLC change click here.

Why use a Toll-Free Number

Think of a Toll-Free number as a hybrid between a long code and short code. The throughput rate of Toll-free numbers is significantly higher than Long Code numbers, meaning it’s a good option if you need to send out mass messages with high reliability. The setup time and cost are relatively low when compared to Short codes. With toll-free texting, you can give your customers an easy and quick way to make reservations and schedule appointments. Easily send shipping and delivery notifications directly from your toll-free number. You can use toll-free texting to send mass campaigns to everyone who’s opted in to your list. You can’t do that kind of texting with a regular long code number.

Why use a Short Code

The best time to use a Short code is when you want to reach a large audience quickly. Short Codes make it easier for businesses to send and receive SMS at a high rate. IntelePeer’s Short Code service is perfect for time-sensitive information that needs to reach large numbers of subscribers. For example, the National Weather service can alert local residents of an approaching hurricane via Short Codes. Banking notifications, appointment reminders, marketing promotions, and flight alerts are just a few more examples of how Short Codes can be used. Although Short Codes do not support voice, they are frequently used as a marketing tool to create brand awareness and increase customer loyalty.

Types of Short Codes

In the US, IntelePeer offers two types of Short codes: Random and Vanity Short Codes

  • Random Short Codes are 5 or 6-digit numbers that are randomly chosen by the carriers and have no significance to a brand.
  • Vanity Short Codes are 5 or 6-digit numbers that are specifically chosen by a business for many different reasons such as a specific meaning), spelling something out on a phone dial pad which is the alphanumeric equivalent to a word, or just something easy to remember. For example, at IntelePeer we have IPEER and CPAAS as our vanity short codes. They are completely customizable and unique, making it a great option for extending your brand.