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Text enabled toll-free numbers: What all businesses should know about toll-free SMS

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At Sinch, we often bring you new and innovative ways to communicate with your customers, but sometimes the biggest wins come from tried and tested strategies you haven’t taken advantage of yet. 

Whether you’re doing Mobile Marketing, Digital Marketing, or Customer Service, toll-free messaging should be a part of your customer communication strategy. You’ve probably heard that text messaging and SMS services are being used by businesses more than ever before. If your business has a toll-free phone number, you may NOT know that people can, and do, text it – whether it’s SMS enabled or not! So, let’s make sure you’re up to speed on toll-free numbers and texting.

What is a text-enabled toll-free number?

Toll-free numbers (TFNs) are telephone numbers with distinct three-digit area codes that can be dialed from landlines with no charge to the caller. Wireless callers, however, will be charged for airtime minutes used during a toll-free call unless they have an unlimited calling plan. If a TFN is text enabled, that means customers can send SMS messages to that number and the business can then reply via SMS.


How do I know if my 8XX number can send and receive SMS?

Contact us and we'll check for you! 

When is it best to send SMS from a toll-free number?

Let’s start with examples of text communications that are great to send from your business’s toll-free number. 

Informational alerts

Whether it’s a service disruption alert (think internet or power service outage) or a package delivery notification (package has shipped, package has been delivered, etc.), chances are the message was delivered via a toll-free number. This kind of notification keeps customers informed on meaningful, relevant information. It also offers an opportunity for the customer to take further action, like contacting a care center via a voice call, just by tapping on the toll-free number the message came from.

Customer surveys

Send a Net Promotor Score (NPS) survey asking customers if they would recommend your brand. Answers will reveal brand promoters or detractors. Using a toll-free number to follow up on survey responses is critical in determining customer satisfaction and engagement.

Appointment alerts

Think dentist and doctor appointments or cable and internet set up appointments. These types of alerts help customers plan their day, rescheduling if needed. Missed appointments cost businesses thousands of dollars every year. Toll-free numbers can help stop this revenue loss.

Community updates

Use a toll-free number to reach schools or communities with updates on school weather closings, COVID updates, safety announcements, registration deadlines, road or facility closures, and transit alerts.

Marketing messages

Use toll-free numbers for promotional offers, coupons, and sales event alerts. Let your customers know about grand openings, remind them of loyalty club perks, or entice them with a customized offer. Remember, though, that it’s important to get opt-ins for marketing content, and any content should be direct marketing, not third-party offers. 


What should I avoid sending from a toll-free number?

Here is a list of what NOT to send in SMS from your business’s toll-free number. 

High-risk financial services

Promotion of high-risk financial services is not allowed on toll-free numbers. This includes payday loans, short-term-high interest loans, auto loans, mortgage loans, student loans, third-party lending programs, gambling, sweepstakes, stock alerts, and cryptocurrency. However, if your content is account-related or is not promoting disallowed content (like a casino promoting a dinner show or an OTP for account login), it may be okay.

“Get rich quick” schemes

This includes content related to or promoting work from home programs, risk investment opportunities, and multi-level marketing.

Third-party debt collection

This includes third-party debt collection and consolidation. Examples include debt reduction, debt forgiveness, and credit repair programs.

Controlled substances

This includes federally illegal drugs, such as medical marijuana and cannabis dispensaries (even if legal in your state).

SHAFT content

SHAFT stands for Sex, Hate, Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco. Examples include pornographic or sexually explicit content, profanity or hate speech, products containing alcohol, content related to guns or other weapons, and tobacco products (including vape, cigars, and smoke/vape shops).

Indirect marketing

Only direct marketing content is allowed on toll-free numbers. Promotions must come directly from the brand, not sent by a third party. Lead generation (selling or sharing customer opt-in data with third parties) is also not allowed.

If you text any of the above from your toll-free number, you can expect to have it shut down. 


How much does it cost to get up and running with a toll-free number for messaging?

There are standard message and number lease fees that apply to toll-free messaging. There are also carrier pass through fees, which we pass along at no mark-up to our customers. Please note that these are subject to change by the carriers.

If you’re just getting started with business texting, there’s more you’ll need to know to steer clear of any legal trouble and to keep your business compliant. Be sure to check out our U.S. SMS Compliance Guide for a run-down of best practices and a useful checklist you’ll want to keep handy! You can also learn more about these numbers, including benefits and best practices on the Toll-Free Numbers page.