SMTP Error 554

Email errors can be frustrating to deal with, especially when error codes like “SMTP 554 transaction failed” are not clear to the sender. 

The 554 error indicates that the email didn’t go through. Simply put, the email transaction between the sender and receiver’s email was unsuccessful.

So, what causes 554 errors? And, how do we fix them? Let’s dive in to find out.

What Does SMTP Error 554 Mean?

Generally, SMTP error 554 means there was an unsuccessful email transaction between the sending server and the receiving server.  This error is irreversible, and the server will not attempt to send the message again.

Well, until you fix it.

While this might be as a result of “permanent problems with remote server” due to your sending email server being blacklisted, it could also be because of bad DNS records.

Often, a 554 error code is a blanket code for generic email delivery failure. It’s usually used when an email error code doesn’t explicitly identify a problem.

In cases like these, the server sends you a bounce-back message with the variation of email error 554 as the subject and your original message in the body.

Here’s what a 554 bounce-back message may look like:

SMTP error from remote mail server after RCPT TO:

<>:host []: 554 Invalid recipient

Other variations of the SMTP error 554 may include:

  • 554 Transaction Failed Spam Message not queued.554 Virus found, message permanently rejected (#5.3.0)
  • 554 rejected due to spam content
  • 554 Relay access denied
  • 554 Message not allowed – [PH01] Message rejected for policy reasons.

As you can see, even when there’s a reason provided, it is mostly technical jargon. Not to worry, we’ll explore some of the complex causes for SMTP error 554 and how you can fix them.

Causes of SMTP Error 554

The following are some of the reasons for a 554 email error.

Invalid Recipient Address or Errors

SMTP email errors that come up as “invalid recipient address” might result from an incorrect email address or custom filters configured by the recipient. In extreme cases, the recipient’s address might have been suspended or disabled.

Sometimes, the receiving mail server might pose a problem by having an incorrect MX record of the recipient’s domain. 

Blacklisted IP Address

The main reason for this error is a blacklisting of the sender IP. Some spam monitoring systems may blacklist the sender’s IP address because of spam issues or open relays.

Major webmail service providers like Gmail, Outlook, and Zoho Mail check the reputation of IP addresses before accepting connections and rejects incoming emails if it detects any issues. 

Consequently, monitoring systems like SORBS and DNSBL blacklists the mail server IP address.

Bad DNS Records

Bad DNS records bring up errors like: “554 permanent problems with the remote server.” The receiving server can reject emails due to poor DNS records at the sender’s domain.

Usually, the recipient’s server scans these DNS records DMARC, SPF, and DKIM for validation on the sender’s receiver. If there are any discrepancies, it rejects the incoming message and brings up a 554 error. 

We’ll briefly discuss these records in a bit.

SPF Record

Email service providers use an SPF (Sender Policy Framework) record to curb unwanted emails from spammers’ domains. 

To put it another way, the SPF record lists server IP addresses that can send emails on behalf of the domain. Thus, it rejects any email that doesn’t come from any of these IPs, preventing email spoofing.

Though the sender’s mail server IP address changes in some cases, the SPF record may not have it listed in its records. 

As a result, the receiving server bounces the incoming message because it can’t verify it.

DKIM Record 

DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail) records, on the other hand, sign the emails in a way that helps the recipient server to verify whether or not the sender is legitimate.

Some mail servers will reject emails if there are no DKIM records, assuming the sender is fake.

DMARC Record

DMARC (Domain Message Authentication Reporting & Conformance) records are similar to SPF and DKIM. 

It assists the recipient server in verifying the sender’s authenticity by validating that an email comes from a designated source.

A missing DMARC record can cause an unsuccessful email transaction.

Sender Address Flagged as Spam

Some email users use custom blacklist configurations to filter out spam words in incoming messages. So, emails with these words get bounced back at the recipient’s end.

The same thing occurs when the sender tries to cross their email sending limits; recipient filters see these actions as suspicious and bounce the message.

Email Violation Policy

Email service providers all have email policies that users’ messages must follow. If a message doesn’t follow these policies, the email provider blocks it immediately.

How to Fix SMTP Error 554 

While you can fix some of the errors by yourself, other ones require technical expertise. Here’s how to fix some of the common causes for SMTP error 554.

Fix: Invalid Recipient Address or Errors

If you see an “Address not found” bounce message, then check carefully for misspelling words in the recipient’s address.

If there are no typos, you can check with our support team to verify the domain name and know whether the recipient’s domain MX records are set correctly.

Fix: Bad DNS Records

When you purchase email hosting with us, we immediately verify the SPF, DKIM, or DMARC records upon request and make the required changes if needed.

Fix: Spam and Blacklisted IP Address

There are multiple ways to go about fixing this error. But the easiest way is having your address delisted from public Reputation Block Lists (RBLs).

Various web tools make it possible to check for blacklisted sender IP addresses and create a delist request. This delisting process can take a couple of days, so hang on.

Another way is to upgrade your email account to enjoy pro spam protection and robust storage and bandwidth.

Fix: Email Violation Policy

Bad headers, spam contents, offensive links, or malicious attachments go against some email providers or ISP’s policy. 

Endeavor to rid your messages of these to avoid error messages like: “554 Message not allowed – [PH01] Message rejected for policy reasons.”

In Summary

SMTP error 554 can occur for the various reasons we listed above. 

Avoid sending spam contents, have your DNS records checked, and ensure to stick to your providers’ email policies, and you’re golden.

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Working in the web hosting industry for over 13 years, Rado has inevitably got some insight into the industry. A digital marketer by education, Rado is always putting himself in the client's shoes, trying to see what's best for THEM first. A man of the fine detail, you can often find him spending 10+ minutes wondering over a missing comma or slightly skewed design.