What Are Short Codes & How to Get Them

What Is a Short Code?

Dedicated Short Code Signage

Short codes, also known as short numbers or SMS short codes, are five- or six-digit textable phone numbers (such as 858585) used by businesses and organizations to support SMS marketing and text communication strategies.

Short codes are often memorable or used to spell out a word closely associated with the brand that provisions the short code. They’re often best suited to organizations with large contact lists and a high volume of messaging demand.

There are multiple benefits to provisioning an SMS short code, including:

  • Increased Security
  • Improved Branding Opportunities
  • Faster Message Deliverability
  • No Keyword Restrictions
  • Quickly Segment Opt-Ins
  • Cost Effective When Sending to Large Groups

By pairing your SMS short code with a specific SMS Keyword, you can create a short code text message for your customers to opt in to. It could be for an offer, a helpful request to engage with your brand, or simply an agreement to receive helpful communications from your business.

The Two Types of SMS Short Codes

SMS short codes come in two variations: vanity short codes (numbers you choose) and random short codes (numbers chosen for you).

Carriers used to support shared short codes, or short numbers that were shared across multiple businesses, but in an effort to strengthen consumer protection and message deliverability, stopped supporting them in 2023. Now all SMS short codes can be considered dedicated short codes, or short codes specified for use by one business or organization.

What Are Short Code Text Messages?

Sample short code

"Short code text messages" are simply text messages that have been sent via an SMS short code, like 858585. The message itself is no different than any other text message you may receive from a business or brand.

How to Use SMS Short Codes

To use a short code, simply create a new message, type the short code where you would normally add a 10-digital phone number, type your message, and send.

SMS short codes are provisioned by businesses and organizations to improve branding, increase engagement, drive sales, and save money when texting a large number of recipients.

In the example below, a short code (858585) has been paired with the Keyword “ENJOY” to drive engagement to a loyalty program.


Short Code Instore Signage

Short Code Sample Message

Examples of Short Code Use Cases


Short Code Marketing & Promotions

Sample Message

Short code texting improves branding and makes a powerful impression on consumers.

  • Drive More Sign-Ups with Short Code SMS
  • Use Convenient Short Codes to Power Loyalty Programs
  • Boost Audience Activation with SMS Discount Codes


Short Code SMS Polls & Surveys

With its push notification nature text short codes allow you to get closer to your contacts than any other communication method.

  • Use Short Code Messaging to Gather Crucial First-Party Data
  • Send Short Code Polls to Compile Customer Feedback and Opinions
  • Turn to Short Code Message Polls to Power Engagement


Short Code Alerts & Notifications

Keep your contacts safe and up-to-date with timely text message notifications and alerts.

Sample Message
  • Use Short Code SMS Messaging for Appointment Reminders
  • Use SMS for Delivery Confirmations & Order Updates
  • Keep Your Audience Safe with Short Code Security Alerts


Short Code Donations & Fundraising

SMS short codes play a key role in text-to-give fundraising campaigns, which allow people to donate to charities simply by sending a text message

  • Build Campaigns Around Short Code Texting for Improved Branding & Delivery
  • Pair Short Codes with Activating Keywords Like “DONATE” or “HELP
  • Set Up Automated Text Responders to Thank Donors and Engage for Future Events


Using Short Codes for Two-Factor Authentication

Keep your employees, customers, and contacts secure by using short codes for convenient and fast 2FA authentication.

  • Receiving 2FA log-in links is the most common way short code texting messages are used for Two-Factor Authentication. When you log in to 2FA-enabled service, a unique security code is sent to your textable number via SMS short code that must be used to complete the authentication process.
  • You can also use SMS short codes paired with Keywords to enroll contacts into two-factor authorization. When a contact sends a specific Keyword to your short code an automated text is generated with further instructions on activating 2FA security.
  • Though less secure than 2FA, you can also use short code texting to send password reset links and messages.

How to Get a Short Code Number

Heads up, applying and being approved for a short code isn’t a fast process—think weeks, not days—and the cell service providers must approve your application before you can send or receive any messages from your short number.

1. Choose your short code from a list of available numbers, or search to see if a number is available. Remember to choose a memorable short number or one that relates to your industry or brand.

2. Cellular providers want to know what type of messages you plan on sending before approving your application. EZ Texting’s account managers are here to walk you through all the ins and outs of getting your new short code.

3. Once we’ve secured your SMS short code, the carriers will review your application and test it to make sure all of the information you’ve provided is accurate. Then they’ll issue their final approval and—congratulations!—provide you with your exclusive short code.

4. Once you’ve been approved you’re ready to start using your new short code! Be sure to advertise your new number and Keyword across all marketing collateral including, in-store signage, websites, billboards, and more.

The approval process will be a little different depending on which type of SMS short code you want to use, your business, and your use case, but EZ Texting offers white-glove support to make the process effortless.

Acquiring a Random SMS Short Code

Getting a random SMS short code begins with the lease application. Once you apply, the application is reviewed. Once the application has been approved, you’ll then have to pay to lease the random short code. Once the short code lease payment has been received, a five- or six-digit short code will be randomly chosen for you.

Provisioning a Vanity Short Code

The approval process for vanity SMS short codes may feel a bit cumbersome, but it requires detailed planning and quality checks. Here’s how it works:

  • You begin by filling out a service approval form. It contains the details about your campaign and is sent to each cellular network that delivers your messages to ensure they comply with each network's regulations.
  • The cell providers will review your application. The approval process can take several weeks. It's common to be rejected the first time, but you will typically be approved quickly after revisions. It’s essential to make sure that you look at what words your short code might spell. Your application wouldn’t be approved if your number spelled out a prohibited word on a keypad. For example, the number 37847 can spell both “FRUIT” and “DRUGS.”
  • After your campaign is approved, each network will provide the short code number for testing. This means that the networks will seek the legally required “HELP” and “STOP” options. This provisioning and testing can last up to 6 weeks. The networks will issue final approval after they have verified that your campaign meets their regulations. Then you can launch a campaign on your new vanity short code!

What Is a Short Code Service Provider?

A best-in-class short code service provider, like EZ Texting, has long-standing relationships with the carriers and bodies governing the use of SMS and text communications. In fact, we’ve been a part of making the rules that govern our industry. What you need to know is that we untangle the complications of regulations and rules to make signing up for text marketing, acquiring a short code, and growing your business feel effortless.

How Much Do Short Codes Cost?

In the United States, short codes are leased, not sold. The lease cost of a short code depends on the type of short code you choose. EZ Texting's dedicated short code support team will work with you in the process of provisioning your short code and getting it approved. Get started today to take advantage of guaranteed throughput, unlimited Keywords, credit rollover, and low messaging fees

One-Time Setup

Covers carrier app fees and services for SMS and MMS messaging**

Standard Setup

(6 - 12 Weeks)


Accelerated Setup

(3 - 6 Weeks)


Dedicated Short Code Leasing Fees

Monthly subscription that covers carrier leasing and hosting fees

Random Code


Vanity Code



Credits can be used to send SMS (1 credit) and MMS (3 credits) texts*

Credits per Month
Cost per Credit

*   Carrier Pass-Through Fees are billed separately based on exact usage.

** SMS Carriers: Alltell, AT&T, Boostmobile, Cellcom, Cellular One, Cellular South, Centennial Wireless,
     Cincinnati Bell, MetroPCS, nTelos, Nextel, Unicell, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Verizon, Virgin Mobile

     MMS Carriers: Alltell, AT&T, Cricket, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, Verizon Wireless