If you’ve decided to do WhatsApp marketing, it’s important to know how WhatsApp API pricing works for budgeting and planning.
As you know, WhatsApp Campaigns, the marketing functionality for businesses that want to grow using the messaging app, is available through the WhatsApp Business API. You need to sign up for a WhatsApp partner or Business Solution Provider (BSP) to access it.
Different providers charge differently, but generally you pay to play. Sometimes the price is tied to using the rest of the BSP’s platform such as CRM.
So let’s explore the WhatsApp Business API Pricing and the various pricing plans you can expect.
Does WhatsApp Cost Money?
Of course your most pressing question is, will WhatsApp charge you money?
First, there are two WhatsApp for business options. One is the free app and the other is the API.
The superior features and scalability are the main difference between the WhatsApp Business API and the free WhatsApp Business app.
WhatsApp offers its Business API as a scalable marketing tool for mid- and large businesses. As such, it’s of course paid. The WhatsApp API itself is free but messages are charged per session.
A session includes all messages exchanged between your business and a contact in a 24-hour conversation.
Since 24 hours is a lot of time to assist a customer, you’re essentially charged for a full conversation, regardless of the number of messages. If more than 24 hours have passed since the last user message, you can start a new conversation and so a new session will start (and be charged).
That’s the new pricing by WhatsApp as of February 2022 and an improvement compared to their old pricing model where they charged per message template.
WhatsApp’s pricing also depends on the country code of the end user. You as a business can message people in any country, but you’ll be charged differently. Here’s the official WhatsApp price list. Then, different pricing applies whether the chat is initiated by a user or the business.
One very important thing to know about how WhatsApp Business API pricing works is that the first 1,000 sessions every month are free. This means you can have quite a few conversations before incurring any costs. The API is also free to access. Keep that in mind when comparing prices from different providers. Some will charge their markup even on top of the free 1,000!
Good to Know: The current WhatsApp API pricing has a little Easter egg for you. You can save a bit of message charges using the Facebook ads or page CTAs. If a user first messages you through those entry points, this session is free (you only pay for the ad). Meta wants to interconnect both platforms and so you win a free session.
WhatsApp Business API Pricing Models Offered by BSPs
Warning: Not all BSPs are officially endorsed by Meta to offer the WhatsApp API for marketing, e.g. WhatsApp Campaigns. Sending mass messages through them can be an issue.
With that in mind, here are the most common ways WhatsApp API prices are formed.
Monthly plan or flat fee
Many WhatsApp providers have a recurring fee, e.g. a monthly plan, to simply activate the channel for you and give you access to the API. They usually charge for messages sent separately.
Another approach is having a flat fee or a bundle of a certain amount of messages you can send per month. Needless to say, it comes with lots of limitations.
Markup per message
A straightforward pricing model is simply charging per message with a small markup for the provider, just like for SMS.
Similarly to email marketing software, some BSPs charge by contact list size or monthly active WhatsApp contacts. This can easily be the most expensive way to use WhatsApp Business API since the list size doesn’t automatically translate into messages sent. Depending on your strategy, you might just take the time and build it, and not send massive campaigns each month but get billed more and more for it.
Another equally inconvenient WhatsApp pricing model is by user seat. When the API’s main idea is to be scalable and to enable your marketing and support teams to do more, charging by team member count seems limiting to growth.
Setup or license fee
Some providers require a one-time setup fee, usually in addition to the message costs. For enterprise clients, it can be called license fee but it’s the same thing — and WhatsApp doesn’t require it at all.
Let’s explore how the WhatsApp Business API pricing works for different teams and use cases.
- Outbound notifications, using template messages
- Even if users reply, 24-hour sessions work here too
- Good use of the 1,000 free conversation sessions a month you get
- Good to use a BSP that automatically checks if the user exist before sending the message to avoid money leaks
- Business-initiated conversations, templates need to be approved
- Easy to control the cost with a sending plan/ schedule and a CRM to narrow down lists and target specific contacts
- Can be one-to-many or individual depending only your sales process
- If the conversation goes over the 24-hour period since the first business message, it needs to be reset with a template message
- Receiving messages from users is free, the session starts if you reply (good way to skip irrelevant messages and costs)
- User-initiated conversations are generally cheaper with the current WhatsApp pricing and are billed as one sessions if you manage to answer within the 24-hour window
- Be careful with setting up automation because they are counted as an answer and thus a billed session begins