Mobile carriers enforce SMS surcharges on commercial text messaging. In this article, we list the exact costs of surcharge carrier fees in the USA and Canada on major mobile operators directly from them, cover critical elements of SMS compliance and provide best practices to help you stay on track. There are no blended costs here, or markups. This is the real current costs levied by operators on SMS, MMS and Toll Free by the major mobile carriers in the U.S. and Canada. 

If you want to make the most of your business text message campaign, it’s essential to understand what’s required of your organization, what you’re allowed and what you’re not allowed to do. It may be a hassle to tackle lengthy laws and regulations, but we can assure you it’s worth the effort.

Note: Although U.S. SMS enforces Campaign Registration, with the threat of carrier penalties for SPAM and non-compliance with fines, the basic rules of use are the same as defined in Canadian telecommunications laws. We’ll discuss the individual differentiators below. As carriers regularly change their fees (aka surcharges), always check with us for the latest rates. Swift SMS Gateway regularly sends clients email notice upon any industry update we’ve heard direct from carriers.

1. SMS Surcharges and MMS Carrier Fees

Carrier fees, commonly referred to as surcharges, are applied to each text message by mobile carriers in both the U.S. and Canada. These fees are levied by carriers in addition to the transit fees for each text message. 

Everyone pays these fees. Your SMS service supplier may choose to not publish these fees and simply disclose their fees and/or bury the fee in their cost or mark it up.

Swift SMS Gateway provides full disclosure on all related surcharge fees on SMS, MMS, and Toll-Free text messaging.

Carrier Fees vary significantly between the major mobile operators. Canadian carriers have much higher carrier fees (aka surcharges) compared to the US:

United States:

Registered Long Code 10DLC Outbound SMS / Inbound SMS Surcharges
(Priced in USD Effective May 1st, 2023)

  • AT&T: $0.002  / $0.000 *
  • T-Mobile & Sprint: $0.003 / $0.003
  • Verizon: $0.003 / $0.000
  • US Cellular: $0.005 / $0.000
  • Claro (Puerto Rico): $0.0045 / $0.000
  • Textnow: $0.002 / $0.000
  • Other: $0.0025 / $0.000

*Unregistered Long Code 10DLC traffic on AT&T is subject to an additional $0.010 surcharge outbound effective June 1st, 2023. Verizon will increase their surcharge on unregistered 10DLC traffic to $0.01 USD effective July 1st, 2023. Unregistered Long Code 10DLC traffic on T-Mobile & Sprint is subject to an additional $0.004 surcharge outbound.

Sending unregistered SMS text messaging is not advised, as it is an unnecessary premium and is not supported beyond a best-effort.

Registered Outbound MMS / Inbound MMS Surcharges

  • AT&T: $0.0035 / $0.000 *
  • T-Mobile & Sprint: $0.010 / $0.010
  • Verizon: $0.05 / $0.000
  • US Cellular: $0.010 / $0.000
  • Other: $0.010 / $0.000

*Unregistered MMS traffic on AT&T is subject to an additional $0.015 surcharge as well outbound effective June 1st, 2023.

Registered Outbound Toll-Free / Inbound Toll-Free Surcharges
(Priced in USD Effective May 1st, 2023)

  • AT&T: $0.0025 / $0.000 *
  • T-Mobile & Sprint: $0.003 / $0.003
  • Verizon: $0.003  / $0.000
  • US Cellular: $0.0025 / $0.0025
  • Claro (Puerto Rico): $0.0045 / $0.000
  • Textnow: $0.0015 / $0.000

Priced in CAD Effective Sept 1st, 2022
Outbound SMS Surcharges (Mobile Terminated) / Inbound SMS Surcharges (Mobile Originated)

  • Bell & Virgin: $0.011 / $0.000
  • Rogers & Fido: $0.011 / $0.000
  • Telus: $0.008 / $0.000
  • Sasktel: $0.008 / $0.000
  • Freedom: $0.006 / $0.000
  • Videotron: $0.007 / $0.00 

Toll Free Outbound SMS Surcharges (Mobile Terminated) / Inbound SMS Surcharges (Mobile Originated)

  • Bell & Virgin: $0.011 / $0.000
  • Rogers & Fido: $0.01 / $0.000
  • Telus: $0.008 / $0.000
  • Sasktel: $0.008 / $0.000
  • Freedom: $0.006 / $0.000
  • Videotron: $0.007 / $0.000

Outbound MMS / Inbound MMS Surcharges

  • Bell & Virgin: $0.041 / $0.000
  • Rogers & Fido: $0.020 / $0.000
  • Telus: $0.013 / $0.000
  • Sasktel: $0.008 / $0.000
  • Freedom: $0.012 / $0.000
  • Videotron: $0.007 / $0.000

Toll-Free Outbound MMS Surcharges (Mobile Terminated) / Inbound MMS Surcharges (Mobile Originated)

  • Bell & Virgin: $0.041 / $0.000
  • Rogers & Fido: $0.020 / $0.000
  • Telus: $0.013 / $0.000
  • Sasktel: $0.008 / $0.000
  • Freedom: $0.012 / $0.000
  • Videotron: $0.007 / $0.000

U.S. Carrier Penalties

Following the creation of application-to-person (A2P) messaging channels, carriers have implemented requirements that could result in penalties if not complied with. These channels were created to form a sanctioned messaging channel to ensure customers only receive texts they agree to. AT&T and T-Mobile currently have content violation fees at around $10,000 per incident, following one warning strike.

Here are the violations to steer clear of:

  • Phishing: This malicious practice entices vulnerable recipients to reveal highly sensitive data, such as banking information or passwords, for financial gain. Phishing is strictly illegal and is only conducted by those who wish to earn money fraudulently.
  • SPAM: Similar to spam emails, spam texts involve unsolicited messages that contain inappropriate, unprofessional or untimely content. They’re often sent in bulk by companies or individuals and are considered a very bad practice.
  • SHAFT violations: Avoid mention of sex, hate, alcohol, firearms and tobacco (SHAFT) in your text messages. This concept regulates business text messages to mitigate the risk of offending recipients and safeguard younger, easily influenced audiences.

2. Campaign Registration

Whether you utilize your text message campaigns for marketing communications, appointment reminders or delivery updates, you must ensure your campaign is registered with The Campaign Registry (TCR) if you’re based in the United States. Even small businesses that use person-to-person (P2P) messaging — as opposed to the standard application-to-person (A2P) text messaging — must register.

If you don’t register your text message campaign, you put yourself at risk of substantial financial penalties. Additionally, TCR can impose usage restrictions that prevent you from utilizing the text message channel for the foreseeable future. That’s why it’s absolutely critical to register properly to comply with standard legal regulations.

Note: In Canada, however, text message broadcasting is not registered with the Campaign Registry. Instead, your text message gateway manages your compliance and approvals, and registration only applies to short code and toll-free channels — not to 10DLC or P2P SMS text messaging.

3. Text Message Responsibilities

Once you gain an SMS subscriber, you’ll never want to let them go. However, to respect your audience and maintain compliance, it’s imperative to follow the necessary guidelines provided by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

The TCPA requires companies to obtain written consent from customers before they can send over their text message initiatives. This act was put in place to empower SMS recipients by allowing them to choose the companies they associate with and not get bombarded with unsolicited marketing text messages.

The TCPA enforces privacy rights through the following measures:

1. Transparent opt-in messaging:
You must abstain from ambiguity and be transparent about what customers are subscribing to. For example, you must say your texts are part of a marketing campaign, not a discount generator.

2. Imperative opt-out options:
It’s prohibited for companies to text customers without a clear opt-out option provided in every SMS marketing message.

3. Established brand identity:
Commercial entities are required to address recipients with their company name along with a straightforward value proposition.

4. Limited operation hours:
Businesses can only send text messages during restricted social hours, between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.

5. Banned autodialer methods:
All businesses are banned from the use of automated dialing systems, also referred to as robocalls.

Businesses that don’t comply with TCPA guidelines could face expensive fines at around $500 per text message. If enforcers have reason or evidence to believe a company has purposefully evaded compliance, they may face disciplinary charges that triple fines to $1,500 per message.

Note: There are some exceptions to the TCPA. For example, SMS campaigns with special SMS use cases, such as emergency messages, are permitted to send texts during unsocial hours without an option to opt-out.

The Right Way To Acquire Customer Consent

To nurture your SMS recipients and prevent future issues from arising, follow these best practices to ensure you remain compliant with the TCPA:

  • Send confirmation texts: After mobile users choose to opt-in for your SMS campaign, you can send a follow-up confirmation text to ensure they’re aware of their actions. This is often referred to as the double opt-in method, as it adds an extra step that guarantees customers have actively agreed to receive your business texts.
  • Disclose message frequency: To ensure customers are aware of how regularly they’ll receive your communications, let them know what they should expect from your SMS marketing initiatives. Disclosing this information will help to maintain transparency and reduce opt-out rates.
  • Don’t assume: Just because a customer is subscribed to your email list and you have access to their mobile number, it doesn’t mean you have consent to contact them via the SMS channel. Your mailing list is separate from your text list, so don’t assume customers are contactable until they’ve expressed on-record consent to receive your business text messages.

Get in touch with Swift SMS Gateway to explore your business text message options. Our expert teams are on-hand to help you navigate SMS solutions and support your company’s growth.