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What are AWS Credits and how to get them?

Updated: Jun 28

AWS Credits are cash credits provided by Amazon Web Services (AWS) to help offset the costs of using AWS cloud services. These credits can be applied to a wide range of AWS services, such as compute, storage or databases, allowing businesses to explore and expand their cloud infrastructure without incurring high upfront costs. AWS Credits are particularly valuable for startups and smaller companies looking to scale efficiently and affordably without incurring cloud infrastructure costs.


How do AWS Credits Work?

AWS credits function as a monetary balance that can be used to pay for AWS services. When you consume AWS resources, the cost is automatically deducted from your available credits until they are exhausted. These credits can cover various AWS services, including compute, storage, and data transfer costs, providing flexibility and significant savings. The lifetime of credits is usually 12 months and they are only valid for AWS services (AWS Marketplace offerings are not eligible for use of AWS Credits). 


Free AWS Startup Credits

AWS Startup Credits are specifically designed to support early-stage companies in their cloud journey. These credits are typically part of the AWS Activate Program, which offers tailored packages for startups:

  1. AWS Activate Founders: Designed for bootstrapped and self-funded startups, offering up to $1,000 in credits.

  2. AWS Activate Portfolio: Available to startups in select accelerators, incubators, and VC funds, offering up to $100,000 in credits.


These credits help startups reduce their operational costs while leveraging AWS’s robust cloud infrastructure to innovate and scale. Eligibility criteria for startups applying for AWS Activate Portfolio Credits are:

  • Have not received funding beyond Series A (meaning that you are a bootstrapped, pre-seed, seed or Series A startup)

  • Not have exceeded $100,000 in awarded or redeemed AWS credits from AWS Activate;

  • Active AWS account, company website, and LinkedIn page;

  • Company has been incorporated in the last 10 years.


aws credits maximum amount

How to get free AWS Credits?

There are several ways to obtain AWS credits:

  1. AWS Activate Program: This program is designed for startups and offers various credit packages based on the startup's stage and needs. It provides up to $100,000 in AWS credits for eligible startups. More information can be found on the AWS Activate page.

  2. VCs & Institutional Investors: most of Tier1 and Tier2 VCs have partnered with AWS to provide credits to their portfolio companies. If your investor doesn’t know about it or hasn’t partnered with AWS yet, it is recommended to encourage them to do so as credits mutually benefit the startup (which gets free credits), as well as the investor themselves. In this way investors can prove their added value to startups while having their investment resources being utilized more efficiently (i.e. startup not having to spend on the cloud costs).

  3. AWS Promotional Credits: AWS often provides promotional credits at conferences, webinars, and events. Attending these can be a great way to earn extra credits.

  4. AWS Competitions and Hackathons: Participating in AWS-sponsored competitions and hackathons can also be a way to earn credits.

  5. AWS Free Tier: New AWS customers can access the AWS Free Tier, which offers limited free usage of certain AWS services for 12 months. Check out the AWS Free Tier page for more details.

  6. Educational Institutions: Students and educators can often get free AWS credits through programs like AWS Educate.

  7. AWS Community Programs - range of community programs designed to engage and support individuals and organizations working with AWS technologies. AWS Heroes, AWS Community Builders, AWS Cloud Captains, AWS User Group Leaders.

  8. AWS Cloud Credits for Research - designed to assist researchers and scientists by providing cloud credits that can be used to access AWS cloud services. You need to be a full-time faculty member at accredited research institutions or full-time research staff at accredited research institutions or graduate, post-graduate, or PhD student currently enrolled at accredited research institutions. Students would be awarded up to $5000 of AWS Credits.

  9. AWS Credits for Non Profit - access to a maximum of $5,000 in AWS Promotional Credit to assist in alleviating costs associated with the adoption of cloud-based solutions, enabling nonprofits to pursue their mission goals without the need for initial investments in physical infrastructure.

  10. Ask for credits someone who works for AWS - although often not listed as a valid way of getting AWS Credits, asking someone who works for AWS to help you get credits is a really good way to get some extra credits (e.g. in case your VC doesn’t offer you $100,000 and you already used up their initial allocation). 


It’s worth noting that you can receive AWS Credits multiple times, from multiple sources and partners. However, AWS credits are not cumulative. That means that if the amount applied exceeds the previous credits, you can only receive the difference.

For example, if you already received $5,000 in AWS Activate credits and applied for $25,000 with a VC partner, you will receive just $20,000 in additional credits. If you later get $100,000 from your new investor, then your credits will be topped with additional $75,000 ($100,000 less $25,000 already received). The lifetime value of credits is usually $100,000, which means that once you use up $100,000 in AWS credits, you can’t get any extra credits anymore (at least through above described channels).

How to Check AWS Credits?

To check your AWS credits balance:

  1. Sign in to your AWS Account: Navigate to the AWS Billing and Cost Management Dashboard.

  2. View Your Credits: In the dashboard, you’ll find a section detailing your available credits, their expiration dates, and usage history.

  3. AWS Cost Explorer: Use AWS Cost Explorer to track how your credits are being used across different services.


Maximizing AWS Credits for Startups

For startups, it is particularly important to remember that AWS credits are usually churning faster than expected. Hence strategic planning is required:

  1. Optimize Resource Usage: Regularly monitor and optimize your resource usage to avoid unnecessary costs.

  2. Leverage AWS Tools: Use AWS tools like AWS Cost Explorer and AWS Budgets to manage and track your spending.

  3. Explore AWS Services: Use credits to experiment with different AWS services that can benefit your startup, such as machine learning, data analytics, or IoT services.

  4. Plan for Growth: Strategically allocate credits to services that will support your startup’s growth and scalability.

  5. Assign Responsibilities: clearly define who is the “budget” owner for AWS credits in your company and make sure that this person monitors usage frequently, as even small inefficiencies can lead to unexpected cloud infrastructure costs. In small startups it should be usually CTO or VP of Engineering who monitors the cloud spend, as it has budget implications.


Fine print with AWS Credits. What to know before applying for AWS Credits?

Although free AWS Credits are often a life-saver for startups, there are some things to consider before applying for credits:

  1. Forecast your usage to make sure you don’t let credits expire. Since credits usually expire after 12 months, it is wise not to apply for maximum available to you amount from very beginning as you might risk credits expiring. Instead, start with $5,000 AWS Activate credits and only afterwards start using credits received from our investors.

  2. Marketplace offerings can help you extend lifetime of credits. While AWS Marketplace spent can’t be covered by credits, some of the offerings on marketplace might significantly reduce your AWS bill and hence extend lifetime of the credits. It means you might start paying small amounts for cloud infrastructure early on, but in the long-run you might spend significantly less and use credits for the services where ROI is the highest.

As an example, with simplyblock you spend on average $100 on simplyblock license while spending $500 on EC2 Instances. That set-up lets you however save up to 5x on your EKS Kubernetes volumes costs on AWS, which means that instead of using as much as $3,000 in credits on various AWS storage services, you just pay $100 a month on marketplace and use $500 of AWS credits.
  1. You can’t sell or trade AWS credits. Credits are purely for your company’s use within AWS and can’t be traded, sold, or redeemed for any cash value. You also can’t use credits on Amazon.com


What Can You Spend AWS Credits On?

AWS credits can be spent on a wide range of AWS services including:

  • Compute: EC2 instances, Lambda functions

  • Storage: S3, EFS, Glacier, EBS, EC2 ephemeral storage

  • Data Transfer: Outbound data transfer

  • Machine Learning: SageMaker

  • Databases: RDS, DynamoDB


However, AWS credits typically cannot be used for:

  • Premium Support: AWS Support plans

  • Marketplace Products: Third-party products on AWS Marketplace

  • Reserved Instances: In some cases, specific promotions might exclude Reserve Instances


Other AWS Programs and Discounts

AWS offers numerous payment pricing models for cost savings that are premised on frequency, volume, and commitment tenure. Here are some common ones:

  1. Reserved Instances (RI) provide up to 75% discount off On-Demand Instances, but require a commitment to a specific type of compute (instance family, region, operating system…). More details are available on the AWS Reserved Instances page.

  2. Savings Plans (SP): provide discounts in exchange for a commitment to using a certain amount of compute over 1 or 3 year periods. They offer additional flexibility compared to RIs and are automatically applied by AWS to the spend that will result in the greatest discount. Check out the AWS Savings Plans page.

  3. Spot Instances: Are spare AWS capacity that users can purchase at a heavy discount. The trick is that AWS may need the capacity back at any time — potentially disrupting workloads if not managed properly. More information can be found on the AWS Spot Instances page. You can also learn more on how to leverage Spot instances in our Cloud Commute podcast with Cristian Magherusan-Stanciu from AutoSpotting on “how to cut EC2 cost by 60%”

  4. Vantage Autopilot: Provides automated cost management and optimization solutions to help you make the most of your AWS credits and reduce overall cloud spending. Learn more about Vantage Autopilot here.

For more information, check the official AWS Credits documentation.


How can you use AWS Credits with simplyblock?

Simplyblock’s high-performance cloud storage clusters are built upon EC2 instances with local NVMe disk which means that you can use AWS Credits to reduce most of your storage costs with simplyblock. The license fee for simplyblock software is not covered by credits, however it can be part of other discount plans, such as AWS Enterprise Discount Program (EDP).


Simplyblock uses NVMe over TCP for minimal access latency, high IOPS/GB, and efficient CPU core utilization, surpassing local NVMe disks and Amazon EBS in cost/performance ratio at scale. Ideal for high-performance Kubernetes environments, simplyblock combines the benefits of local-like latency with the scalability and flexibility necessary for dynamic AWS EKS deployments, ensuring optimal performance for I/O-sensitive workloads like databases. Using erasure coding (a better RAID) instead of replicas helps to minimize storage overhead without sacrificing data safety and fault tolerance.


Additional features such as instant snapshots (full and incremental), copy-on-write clones, thin provisioning, compression, encryption, and many more, simplyblock meets your requirements before you set them. Get started using simplyblock right now or learn more about our feature set.

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