Blog/Industry News

The Guide to SMS Short Codes in Canada

Learn the latest on short code updates in Canada as well as what your options look like beyond them.

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If you’re one of the millions of Canadians who have received an email from Shoppers Drug Mart, you’ve probably seen an ad like this before:

That number that is circled in the middle is what we call a short code. Short codes are five or six-digit phone numbers, like the 736-898 above, that customers can text to sign up for SMS updates. 

They’re a unique, simple, and memorable way to get customers to join your text program. But there’s a catch. 

Provisioning a dedicated short code for your business can get expensive. Which is why, in the past, text marketing providers offered shared short codes for different industries to use communally. 

But mobile carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint have since prohibited the use of shared short codes citing concerns around spam, and to make way for 10-digit long codes, or 10DLC.

So, where does that leave Canadian short codes now? 

The Difference Between Canadian Long and Short Codes

Text marketing requires a phone number. At SimpleTexting, we can text-enable almost any number for you. The number will fall into either the category of long, or short codes. 

Canadian Long Codes

Long codes are the traditional 10-digit phone numbers you’re used to. With a long code, your company can use the same number to send SMS messages and place calls. This familiarity helps your message feel like it’s coming from a person, not a bot. That makes long codes perfect for providing a personalized customer service experience.

Canadian Short Codes

As we mentioned earlier, short codes are 5-6 digits long. In order to use a short code in Canada you must provision, or lease it. 

Common uses for short codes include:

Shared short codes may no longer be an option, but there are plenty of alternatives.

Alternatives to Shared Short Codes in Canada 

In order to keep your messages sending smoothly and on-time, you’ll want to choose one of the following phone options.

Dedicated Short Codes

Unlike shared short codes, dedicated short codes belong to your business only. They deliver mass messages the fastest. 

Dedicated short codes come in two forms. They can be vanity short codes, which are special because they spell out a certain word or claim a particular number combo. For example, 7-Eleven’s vanity short code is 711711. 

You can also select a random short code, like 867530. Unlike long codes, dedicated short codes can take several weeks to provision.

All short codes must be leased from the Common Short Code Administration. At SimpleTexting, we help our clients through the entire leasing process and host the short code on our platform. The leasing cost for a short code are as follows:

Leasing & Hosting FeeSet Up Cost*
$1000 / month$4,500 (one-time payment)

*The above prices are in addition to a minimum spend of $500/month in messaging costs (~40,000 messages). See our rates here. Our enterprise team can also create a custom plan if you plan on sending a high volume of messages.

Toll-Free Numbers

Toll-free numbers are easy to obtain, and their mass messaging abilities are comparable to short codes. The only potential drawback is that they’re 10 digits long and almost always begin with 800 or 833, which leaves less room for memorable customization. 

By default, every new SimpleTexting account isset up with a complimentary toll-free number to get you started! 


Your customers may already be familiar with your phone number. They may even have it saved in their contacts! SimpleTexting can text-enable your landline phone number without interrupting your voice service. If you decide to move forward with this option, we highly recommend you register your number as a 10-digit long code which we explain below. 


10DLC, or 10-digit long code, is a messaging solution that allows businesses to send a high-volume of SMS from a local number. Before 10DLC, 10-digit numbers were only sanctioned for P2P (person-to-person) messaging. Now, businesses can access a much higher throughput rate. In other words, more messages per minute can be sent on 10DLC than on traditional 10-digit numbers, but without the same risk of spam that shared short codes presented. 10DLC is far more affordable than a dedicated short code, which makes it the ideal replacement for shared short codes. 

While Canada has yet to get the green light to operate 10DLC across the country, you can learn more about this solution, inquire about testing, and get updates all on our 10DLC info page

Closing Thoughts on Canadian Short Codes

If, after reviewing your options, a short code seems like the right choice for you, there are a few final things you should note. 

  • Canadian short codes can only text numbers in Canada. If you want to text customers in the U.S., you’ll need a seperate short code.
  • Provisioning a short code requires an application, which can be tricky to navigate on your own. When you work with our team, you’ll have an expert by your side every step of the way. We’ll work directly with the carriers to get you up and running as soon as possible.

Have any questions about Canadian SMS or want to learn more about next steps in the process? Click on the blue chat button on the side of your screen to connect with a member of our team, and be sure to sign up for your free 14-day trial

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