What Do Opt In and Opt Out Mean?

Man texting on couch

Messaging has grown in popularity over recent years, becoming so convenient that many people have begun messaging businesses for their customer service needs. In fact, if you’re like the average person, you probably like to communicate with your favorite businesses and organizations via SMS.

As you text with businesses, there’s a good chance you’ve seen new terminology, like opt in or opt out. But what does opt mean in texting? And should you do it? As a business, how should you handle opt ins or opt outs?

Read on to learn all about the meaning of opt in and opt out in texts.

What Does Opt, Opt In, or Opt Out Mean?

If someone asks you to opt in to something, they’re asking you to sign up for it. In the texting world, if a business asks you to opt in, they’re asking you to sign up for their SMS services. In other words, they’re asking for permission to text you.

Alternatively, if someone asks whether you want to opt out of something, they’re asking if you’d like to stop doing it. If a business asks you whether you’d like to opt out, they’re asking you whether you’d like to stop receiving text messages from them.

Illustration showing the meaning of opt in, and opt out in texting

Why Do Businesses Ask You for Permission to Text You?

Why do companies have to get your consent before sending you text messages?

First of all, they have to. The Federal Communications Commission has strict rules when it comes to businesses contacting consumers.

In fact, it’s illegal for them to reach out if you haven’t explicitly said they can in writing. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) says that businesses must get your consent in writing before they communicate with you via text message. It also says that businesses have to immediately stop contacting you if you opt out by texting them an opt-out keyword. (When it was passed in 1991, the TCPA was originally meant to protect you from telemarketing calls. But whenever a new customer communication channel is created—like SMS—the FCC updates the regulation.)

There’s one more reason businesses ask for permission to text you. Ensuring that you actually want to receive texts from them lets you know they care about your preferences, and helps them build a strong, trust-based relationship with you.

How Do Businesses Ask You to Opt In?

Businesses ask customers to opt into their texting service in a variety of ways. The main ones include:

  • When they collect your contact information. This may happen when filling out a form or starting a web chat on their website, and the business requests your phone number. You’ll often see a box on the form that you can check to opt in.
  • When you text a business. Sometimes, businesses will post their text-enabled phone number on their Contact Us page, their social media website, or their emails.They might include an opt-in keyword to text them with to confirm your opt in.

These are the most common times that you’ll see an opt-in request from a business.

Double Opt Ins

Businesses may send a text confirming that you’ve opted in after you click a box on a web form or text in an opt-in keyword. This is called a double opt in, and businesses use it to verify with a higher level of certainty that they’re only texting customers who want to be texted. Again, this helps them ensure they’re complying with the TCPA and building customer trust.

An example of a text message asking a customer for double opt-in

What Do Opt-In Requests Look Like?

Opt-in requests typically have a formula that begins with texting in a keyword, which is often capital letters. It will most likely be something like YES or TEXTNOW, or a brand-specific term. You’ll notice that each opt-in request features corresponding opt-out information. Opt-in requests, including opt-out language, might look like the following examples.

On a Website, Social Media, or Email

Businesses sometimes post their opt-in information on their Contact Us page, social media, or emails. One of these requests may look like this:

Text us for faster service. Our response time is about 2-5 minutes. Text YES to (555) 555 – 5555 to start messaging with one of our reps. Text STOP to unsubscribe.

On a Web Form

You may also encounter an opt-in checkbox on a web form after you fill out order or account information. That language may look like this:

☐ You agree to receive about 4 texts/month from our team about customer service and product care. You also agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Reply STOP to end or HELP for help at any time. 

In a Text

If you text a business first without having opted in earlier, they may ask you to confirm that you’re opting in. (This is the double opt in from earlier in the article.) A double opt in may look like this:

A text message showing a business asking for a customer's permission to contact them.

Why Would You Want to Opt In?

When you opt in to a business’s SMS service, you’re giving them your personal phone number in many cases. They can reach you directly, right on your phone. So why would you want to opt in to receive texts from a business?

A business’s SMS service often aims to:

  • Provide you with faster customer service
  • Send reminders for appointments
  • Keep you up to date on orders and deliveries
  • Help you get the most out of your purchases with product tips
  • Provide the best customer experience possible

In other words, when you opt in to a business’s SMS service, you’re allowing a business to deliver their customer service in a format that’s convenient for you as a customer. And you reap the benefits of easily accessible customer service at the tip of your fingers.

Why Would You Want to Opt Out?

The TCPA makes sure you can opt out of texting whenever you want. As you saw from the opt-in request examples, all businesses should provide opt-out information clearly on initial texts to you and on their website. Most recognize one or all of these opt-out keywords: STOP, STOPALL, UNSUBSCRIBE, CANCEL, END, and QUIT. As soon as you text any of these keywords in, they should automatically stop texting you.

So why would you want to opt out of a business’s SMS service? You may find that:

  • A company is texting you too frequently
  • A business’s texts are no longer relevant to your needs
  • You no longer are interested in a business
  • You opted into texting by mistake

These are all reasons you may want to opt out of texting—and the business that is texting you should comply immediately. (If not, there are ways to stop spam or unwanted texts.)

How Businesses Typically Handle Opt Ins and Opt Outs

Businesses should take customers’ subscription preferences very seriously. With the TCPA’s requirements—and customers’ trust on the line—both opt ins and opt outs should be considered with the utmost seriousness.

When considering opt ins and opt outs, a business should:

  • Always ask for new customers to opt in and always allow them plenty of opportunities to opt out.
  • Include the following in their opt-in instructions: what kinds of texts customers can expect to receive (e.g., customer service or marketing), how often they will receive them, and opt-in and opt-out keywords.
  • Delete numbers that haven’t engaged in their SMS services for a while, as these numbers may have been reassigned.

Asking for new customers to opt in and allowing them to opt out easily helps businesses achieve SMS compliance with regulations like the TCPA. In turn, achieving compliance helps them stay on the right side of the law—and customers’ trust.


Are you a business looking to stay compliant with key regulations? Check out our SMS compliance resource page.

Mitch Patin
Mitch Patin is a Senior Product Manager at Heymarket. Collaborating with the entire Heymarket team, Mitch works to expand how businesses use messaging by bringing new tools and functionality to the platform. Before joining Heymarket, Mitch founded his own startup focused on simplifying the B2B payment collection process. He also brings product and engineering experience from Bolt and GE. When he’s not sketching up product ideas, you’ll find him at the park playing pickleball.
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