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What Does “Data Rates May Apply” Mean?

It’s time to finally learn what that “message and data rates may apply” disclaimer really means.

Illustration of a smartphone with the message blurred aside from the “Msg & Data rates may apply” copy
December 14, 2023
Chloe Mulliner
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Reading time about 6 min

Whether you're a business sending marketing texts or a customer receiving these text messages, you're probably familiar with the “message and data rates may apply” disclaimer. You’ve seen that message in texts from your favorite brands, doctor’s offices, and even that airline you just booked a flight with.

But just because you’ve seen that “msg and data rates may apply” disclaimer doesn’t necessarily mean you understand why you’re receiving it or why it’s placed in your texts in the first place. That’s why we’ve created a guide that focuses entirely on that “message and data rates may apply” language to help you better understand why it’s included in some text messages.

Go Deeper: What Does “Data Rates May Apply” Mean

So, what does “data rates may apply” mean? “Data rates may apply” means that the cell phone carrier may charge the consumer a fee for receiving or sending that text message. This is because some cell phone carriers apply additional fees to specific text messages or messages with multimedia content, such as interactive features or links.

While these additional data rates may not apply to every recipient, businesses include the disclaimer in their text message programs to be transparent and prevent their recipients from incurring unexpected fees.


Understanding Data Rates

Why do businesses use the "message and data rates may apply” disclaimer? Businesses include the “message and data rates may apply” disclaimer to comply with marketing rules and regulations. However, including this language can also protect a business from getting sued if a recipient incurs fees from their cell phone carrier due to texts from that business.

Aside from avoiding legal ramifications, these disclaimers can help build trust between businesses, their customers, and clients. When businesses are upfront about any potential costs associated with their text messages, their customers and clients won’t feel blindsided if they face fees.

What should you do if you receive a text that says, "Message and data rates may apply"? You can do a few things if you receive a text with the “data rates may apply” message. For starters, if you have an unlimited texting plan, you don't need to worry about paying additional charges to interact with the text. However, if you don't have an unlimited texting plan or are unsure if you have one, you will want to contact your cell phone provider before engaging with the text message to avoid getting charged. Now, if you don't bother checking with your cell phone provider, just realize that you’re interacting with this message at your own risk, and you’ve been warned that you may get charged for opening or replying to the text.


When do data rates apply?

It's important to note that not every recipient will incur message and data fees—depending on the terms of their specific cell phone plan. Although, there are some instances in which SMS data rates may apply.

When do data rates apply? Mobile data rates apply when the recipient does not have a data plan that supports text messaging and/or when messages include multimedia content.

Unsupported Text Plans

Most cell phone data plans now include unlimited text messaging, but that isn’t always the case. Some consumers may not have a cell phone data plan that supports text messaging, which means they get individually charged for every incoming and outgoing text message. Or, sometimes, they’re only allowed a certain number of text messages per month, and any texts that exceed that limit incur fees.

When the recipient doesn’t have a text-supported data plan, the “carrier data charges may apply” disclaimer is particularly important so the recipient understands what fees these messages may entail.

Multimedia Content

Text message data rates may also apply if the text includes multimedia content, such as videos, audio clips, or images. It also contains messages with other interactive elements like surveys, polls, or website links.

These text messages that include multimedia content are called MMS or Multimedia Message Service messages. MMS charges may apply because these texts have more bells and whistles—and require more data than your standard text-only SMS message because they cost more.

Data Rates Costs

With a better understanding of when and why wireless data rates may apply, let’s discuss costs. How much do data rates cost? The cost of data rates will depend on what the cell phone carrier charges and what was agreed upon in the consumer’s data plan.

While the individual circumstances may differ for each consumer, when charges apply to text messages, they typically cost between 20 and 50 cents per message.

How to Avoid Data Charges

Now, you’re probably wondering, how can I avoid being charged data rates? You can avoid being charged data rates by checking your cell phone plan and disabling multimedia messaging.

Check Your Cell Phone Plan

If you're concerned that mobile data charges may apply, contact your cell phone carrier provider to learn more about your contract agreement. Your cell phone plan should outline all the details regarding your text messaging contract, including whether you will incur fees for sending or receiving SMS or MMS messages.

If your current plan charges per message, you may want to purchase an unlimited texting plan that allows you to send and receive as many texts as you’d like.

Disable MMS Messages on Your Phone

Depending on your specific cell phone plan, you may find that your cell phone carrier charges extra for MMS messages—those texts that include multimedia content. If you recall, these messages require more data and often cost more than a standard SMS message. By navigating to your text message settings, you can disable MMS messaging on your phone to avoid unwanted fees.


Examples of Texts with “Msg and Data Rates May Apply” Language

You’re probably not going to receive a text message with a “message and data rates may apply” disclaimer from your best friend or sister, so what are some examples of the messages that may be subject to data rates? Some examples include text messages from brands, banks and credit card companies, airlines and hotels, doctors and dentists, and more.

Texts from Brands

If you’ve opted to receive promotional marketing from a business or brand, you might see the “carrier data charges may apply” messaging. For example, if your favorite shoe company sends you a promo code for their big sale or your go-to makeup brand sends photos of their new lipstick launch, a disclaimer should accompany these text messages.

Texts from Banks and Credit Card Companies

Does your bank or credit card company text you information about your account? If so, these text messages should include “wireless data rates may apply” language to ensure you understand you might get charged for this communication.

Texts from Airlines and Hotels

When you sign up to receive text messages from airlines or hotels, you’ll likely see the disclaimer associated with these messages, too. For instance, if an airline texts you your boarding pass or a hotel reminds you about your upcoming stay, you should be warned of potential charges associated with those messages.

Texts from Doctors and Dentists

If you agreed to text communication with your physician or dentist, this is another example of a text that should include the “cell phone data rates may apply” disclaimer. Frequently, they’ll send you reminders about your appointments, notify you when your lab results are ready, or share health announcements, all via text.


Try Our Free Trial Today

Now that we’ve covered the ins and outs of the “data rates may apply,” it’s time for you to start with an SMS messaging platform for your business. Try our free 14-day trial today!

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