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How to Get AWS Credits:

From AWS Activate to Community Offerings

What if you could utilize the full power of AWS’ products without having to pay for any of them? It’s not as far-fetched as it might sound with AWS credits.

These wonderful little credits will be deducted from your monthly AWS bill automatically, making your bill smaller or even eliminating your costs entirely!

However, they’re not easy to earn. From introductory startup programs to hackathon prizes and rewards for frequent AWS use, this post will cover each way that you can earn these precious credits, how you can maximize their use to make them last longer, and provide you with some general tips to optimize your AWS bills outside of using credits.

Here are the sections we’ve split this post into:

  • What are AWS credits?
  • How to get AWS credits (from AWS Activate)
  • Other ways to get AWS credits
  • How to reduce your AWS bill without credits

Let’s get started.

What are AWS credits?

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AWS credits are essentially promotional coupons that are offered to help out startups in the early phases of setting up their business. These coupons are often given through the AWS Activate program and a few other sources, and can be applied to cover the cost of various eligible AWS services, such as EC2 instances, S3 buckets, and so on.

Think of the AWS Activate program as a kind of introduction to AWS for startups that wouldn’t otherwise have the funds or experience necessary to make full use of AWS. By providing the appropriate training, tools, resources and, yes, credits, AWS helps startups to get their accounts up and running quickly, easily, and at a lower cost while those startups are ramping up.

It’s a win-win; startups can host their products, databases, and so on with AWS and take advantage of the infrastructure that only a giant such as Amazon could have built up, while AWS helps these businesses to grow out of their infancy, and then can charge full price one these customers have enough revenue to afford the full bill.

As you might expect with a service that’s designed to help you grow when starting up, there is a hard limit to the number of AWS credits that you can get. You can apply for more if you run through the credits you have, but once you hit $100,000 in total you’ll never receive any more. In other words, keep an eye on your total to avoid being caught out with a nasty surprise come your next AWS bill.

We mentioned earlier that AWS Activate isn’t the only route to getting AWS credits, but it’s the largest offering of credits that you’ll be able to get (up to $100,000), so we’ll largely focus on that route in this post. We will, however, go into the other avenues that can be used to earn credits further down.

How to get AWS credits (from AWS Activate)

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As mentioned earlier, AWS Activate is the largest source of potential credits to be found. As such, it pays to apply for them as long as you meet the initial criteria for doing so.

Speaking of which, let’s get into how to apply for AWS credits.

Applying for AWS Activate credits

The AWS Activate program considers startups that are self-funded or funded (up to and including Series A), but you must have been founded within the last 10 years and have a functioning website or public profile. Note that AWS Activate is also currently not accepting applications from startups building on AWS China Regions, but there’s a separate AWS Activate China program for those too.

You’ll also need to have an AWS account with admin-level privileges, as the credits are directly applied to the account as a whole rather than any sub-sections or minor users. The $100k limit also applies overall across an entire account, so having multiple users being able to apply for credits and use up that limit quickly would be counterintuitive.

Once you’ve got your AWS account set up and you’ve registered for AWS Activate you’ll be able to apply for credits from your AWS Activate Console. You’ll then need to fill in this application form, and within 7-10 business days you should receive a reply stating whether you’re applicable, and how many credits you’ve been given.

That’s it! You can use the same form to apply for further credits, and you don’t have to worry about doing anything with them once you have them. All credits are automatically applied to (or, rather, deducted from) your monthly AWS bill.

Note that all credits will have an expiry date, and so much be used within the allotted time. Typically, this will be 1 year for any initial offerings, then 2 years for subsequent grants.

How to maximize your credits offering

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The total value of the credits you receive from AWS Activate is dependent on a few factors. Most of these aren’t public knowledge, but we can logically deduce that the growth potential of your startup and the stability of your business model are key factors among them.

You should also know that there is another requirement to reach the full $100,000 limit for credits offerings; your startup needs to be associated with a venture capital firm, accelerator, incubator, or other startup-enabling organization.

Knowing these two elements (having to be backed by a startup-enabling organization and needing a solid plan) will push you a fair way towards making your startup eligible for the full stack of credits to use on your account. However, there is another way to give yourself the best chance possible; you need to talk to an expert.

Obviously speaking to a team such as Cloudvisor’s (one of the advanced-tier AWS partners who can offer credits through their services) will incur its own costs and time commitments. However, if all you want to do is maximize the value of credits that AWS sends your way, there are far worse solutions to doing that.

Other ways to get AWS credits

While the AWS Activate program is the main route for earning credits to reduce your monthly bills, there are a few other ways to earn them. There are also some tips and tricks that you should know in order to maximize the use of your credits, so let’s dive into both of those right now.

Regular cloud builders can earn you small credit bundles

If you regularly experiment with AWS products and build in the cloud, you might receive an email offer for a small bundle of AWS credits (to the tune of $300 or so). This is to encourage further use of AWS products which, naturally, will lead to higher monthly bills in the future.

These offers are a great opportunity to take the edge off of your bills for any experiments you’re running, but be warned that they’re not predictable. We can’t give you a set guide on how to receive these offers, as they’re more of a promotional offer related to your usage.

These credits are offered as part of the wider AWS Proof of concept program.

Proof-of-concept (POC) is another avenue for credits

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The AWS Proof of concept (POC) program is the more proactive version of the credit offers mentioned above. By submitting your POC details to AWS, you can typically receive a reply and potentially some credits to help you enact your plans within a few weeks.

The POC program is much smaller in its offerings (at least in terms of the credit ceiling cap) than AWS Activate, but it’s still a great chance to reduce your bills while testing to see how you can more effectively scale and optimize your operations. 

Win credits in AWS-sponsored hackathons

Want to test your skills, work on cutting-edge projects, and have a chance at winning some AWS credits at the same time? Well then, you need to be taking part in an AWS-sponsored hackathon.

While they aren’t always available, Amazon sponsors many hackathons on a wide variety of topics from machine learning and chatbots to health AI and sustainability. Sure, many might be out of your expertise, but if you find that there’s one currently running with a prize pool of, say, $48,000, it would be a massive missed opportunity to let it slide by without entering.

Obviously there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to earn credits reliably this way. Your takings will depend on what’s on offer (e.g. the latest hackathon’s 1st prize included $10,000 in USD and another $10,000 in AWS credits), how fierce the competition is, and whether you’re able to land one of the top prizes.

Still, it’s worth a shot!

Utilize startup communities

It’s little surprise that Amazon is aware of the power of different marketing avenues for its products. One of these is that of partner programs or offerings with popular startup communities such as Y-Combinator and TechCrunch.

Chances are that, as a savvy startup owner or leadership figure, you’re already subscribed and potentially active in several of these communities. They’re a great place to read others’ success stories, see how they did it, find out what the latest developments in your field are, and generally keep your finger on the pulse of your business’ climate.

The good news is that these can also feature some hefty AWS credit offerings; you just need to know what they offer and how to qualify for them.

Take a look into any communities you’re part of to see if they have any campaigns currently running, and look for any enticing deals for new members to other (usually paid access) communities too. For example, Secret offers $5,000 of AWS credits for 2 years, and FounderPass offers $10,000 in credits for 2 years among their many other discounts.

How to reduce your AWS bill without credits

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We all want to reduce our AWS bills as much as possible, and AWS credits are a fantastic way to do that without affecting your current setup or performance. However, they’re not the only way to achieve this, and they’re also not an infinite resource.

Once you use your credits, they’re gone forever. Wouldn’t it be better if you could reduce your bill permanently instead?

That’s exactly what we here at Aimably are dedicated to helping you do.

First, you need to have a solid grasp of what your bills actually consist of. This is something that AWS is terrible at conveying, making it easy to lose track of what you’re paying for and whether you’re actually still making use of those services.

To solve that problem our AWS Invoice Management Software consolidates all of your bills into one, easy-to-understand dashboard. You can break down your bills via automatic cost allocations, immediately see your monthly income and outcome figures, and quickly reconcile any discrepancies in your figures without having to trawl through and translate the mess of data that is your AWS CUR.

Want to reduce your bills as well as effectively manage them? Well, whether you’re a small business testing the waters with migrating to the cloud or a startup looking to make your funding last as long as humanly possible, our AWS Cost Assessment Service will provide you with the expert advice you need to slash your bills down to their bare minimum.

We provide you with a prioritized list of things that you can do to reduce your bills immediately, making it easy to see what you can do, how much you’ll save, and how long it will take you. The nature of your business and the effect any changes will have on your performance are fully taken into account in our assessments, meaning that you go into any changes with a full picture of what effects they will have. We’ll even create a full financial model for how every contract option will work out, letting you see what the long-term effect of your decisions will be long before you even take them.

Don’t let your credits be spent when you could reduce your bill and utilize them for longer. Click here to get started with Aimably today.

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