Information and best practices for using Toll-Free SMS and MMS in the US and Canada

Toll-Free numbers are designated for business messaging use by all major carriers in the United States, and by most major mobile carriers in Canada (Rogers, Fido, Telus and Videotron). Although carrier filtering is still possible for messages sent from Toll-Free phone numbers, you can greatly reduce the likelihood of filtering by complying with all rules and regulations, and following best practices. This guide explains which SMS and MMS use cases are approved for Toll-Free phone numbers, and our recommendations for ensuring high deliverability.

Article contents:

Approved Toll-Free messaging use cases

Some categories of messaging, such as high-risk financial services and third-party debt collection, are specifically forbidden on Toll-Free SMS and MMS. For more details, see Forbidden message categories for SMS and MMS in the US and Canada.

Toll-Free messaging is a great choice for transactional use cases, including the following:

  • One-time password (OTP) or verification codes
  • Account-related alerts or notifications
  • Customer care messaging that includes some automated messaging (including satisfaction surveys)

Toll-Free SMS can also be used for promotional or marketing-type traffic, however it is extremely important to ensure that all users have opted-in and that you maintain a low opt-out ("STOP" reply) rate to avoid filtering.

Short code numbers remain the best method of sending high-volume marketing or promotional messaging in the United States and Canada.

Toll-Free messaging best practices

Toll-Free message filtering is primarily geared toward preventing unwanted messaging, fraud, or abuse. If you are sending A2P messages to the US that align with the CTIA's best practices and Twilio's Messaging Policy, you should generally see a low rate of filtering when using a Toll-Free phone number.

Additionally, Toll-Free messaging users must adhere to the following standards:

  • Obtain clear opt-in from your recipients before sending them messages (the opt-in does not need to be via SMS).
  • Provide easy ways for your users to opt-out of messages.
  • Maintain a very low opt-out (STOP reply) rate from your recipients.
  • Use shortened, branded URLs for the highest deliverability levels when sending links in the message body. Do not use shared URL shorteners (such as popular free URL shortening services) as these are forbidden by US carriers and will result in filtering.
  • Do not "load balance" by sending the same or similar message contents using multiple Toll-Free numbers. Carriers call this "snowshoeing" and it is specifically targeted for filtering on toll-free SMS.
    • If you need higher SMS message throughput on a Toll-Free number, please contact our Sales team about increasing your throughput.
    • If you have a valid use case for sending the same or similar messages over multiple Toll-Free numbers, please contact Twilio Support.

Toll-Free Messaging Verification to reduce filtering risk on compliant traffic

Twilio offers you the ability to submit your business and message information for carrier verification on Toll-Free SMS and MMS traffic. This reduces the risk of filtering on your message traffic, assuming it is compliant with all applicable rules. Twilio offers this verification service free of cost. Please contact Twilio Support to ask about Toll-Free messaging verification if this is of interest to you.

My Toll-Free messages to the United States or Canada are being filtered (error 30007), but my use case complies with all best practices.

If you suspect you may be experiencing inappropriate filtering (error 30007) on compliant outbound Toll-Free SMS messages despite following all best practices listed above, please contact our Support team, and we can investigate on your behalf.

Toll-Free MMS file size limitations

Toll-Free US numbers sending MMS to the US currently require all media attachments to be no larger than 600kb. This includes image files (jpeg, png, and gif). Twilio currently resizes these image file formats automatically, but a large image file might not be transcoded small enough to meet this 600kb limit when sent via a Toll-Free number. Twilio is working to remove this limitation.

For details about MMS file size, see Twilio Programmable SMS Supported File Types and Size Limits for MMS Media Messages.

Toll-Free SMS and MMS carrier fees

Verizon charges a carrier fee of $0.0025 per SMS message segment and $0.005 per MMS, on all Toll-Free messaging toward subscribers on their network.

AT&T and T-Mobile have also announced carrier fees on Toll-Free SMS and MMS. These fees will go into effect on July 1, 2021.

T-Mobile (including Sprint): Starting July 1, 2021, Twilio will pass through T-Mobile’s carrier fees of $0.0025 per SMS message segment (inbound and outbound) and $0.01 per MMS (inbound and outbound).

AT&T: Starting July 1, 2021, Twilio will pass through AT&T’s carrier fees of $0.0025 per outbound SMS message segment and $0.003 per outbound MMS.

See also: Toll-Free SMS and MMS United States carrier fees (July 1, 2021)

Why would I use Toll-Free messaging instead of a short code?

A short code is the ideal solution for high-volume A2P use cases. By default, short codes offer much higher messaging throughput than other types of numbers, at 100 SMS segments per second. US short codes can also be enabled to send MMS (picture or media) messages in the United States.

US-based Toll-Free phone numbers may be a better fit for certain use cases. Unlike short codes, they can be used for placing and receiving voice calls, in addition to SMS messages. Toll-free SMS may also be a good choice for a business that needs A2P-type communications, but is not ready to apply for a short code.

For a comparison of short code, Toll-Free US, and US/Canadian long code numbers, see Comparison of SMS messaging in the US and Canada for long codes, short codes, and toll-free phone numbers.

Have more questions? Submit a request
Powered by Zendesk