AWS Cloud

How to get Free AWS credits!

CloudYali Team
February 10, 2024
5 min read

he AWS cloud cost is perhaps the most fearful barrier for most cloud newbies. Cloud is all about learning, experimenting and making your hands dirty. AWS cloud is particularly notorious, to begin with as it does not give a fixed credit to experiment. Instead, it offers a 12-month Free tier, which may cause huge cloud fees if not handled properly.

‍The free tier is mostly targeted towards newbies. You cannot do any serious experiments. You may launch a single t2.micro, but you are out of luck if you are thinking about launching anything greater than that. And that is indeed a problem when you are moving up in the cloud ladder. Many of us want to learn/experiment but then it becomes cost-prohibitive. Thankfully AWS is generous towards cloud practitioners who are looking to improve their skills in the cloud.

While working on CloudYali, we had to do a lot of experiments. For us, the maximum AWS service coverage is the goal. That means we had to launch many costly services just to make sure we discover and be able to inventory resources and their configurations. Being a bootstrapped startup we could hardly afford it, but then we figured out that we can overcome this problem with AWS promotional credits.

AWS offers you based on your profile

If you're a regular builder on the cloud and are experimenting with new AWS services, someday you will be delighted to open your inbox to find a gorgeous mail offering you free AWS credits. This happened to us one fine morning when we found this mail in our mailbox. These credits are offered under the AWS Proof of Concept Program.

AWS Credit Mail

AWS Proof of Concept Program

It is easy to apply for credits under this program. Just visit the program page and apply with your account and PoC details that you plan to carry. In our case we mentioned it for testing purposes, what kind of AWS resources and why (we wanted to test our inventory collection for many AWS service resource types). Within a couple of weeks, you should receive status mail.

AWS Sponsored Hackathons

Hackathons are great to hone up your skills as well as to build something meaningful. On DevPost you can find many AWS sponsored hackathons which not only offer prizes but AWS credits as well.

Participate in AWS Builder Program

This is kind of a long shot! If you’re greatly enthusiastic about the AWS ecosystem as well as sharing your knowledge with fellow AWSians this is a fantastic opportunity. The benefits include early access to new AWS features, AWS teams as well as like-minded community builders. AWS provides free credits to play with new features and demonstrate the value to the community. Know more.

Nonprofit organizations

The AWS provides lots of credits to the nonprofit organizations to migrate their workloads to the cloud. These are divided into two major categories, one for global organizations and another dedicated to US-based organizations.

The AWS Nonprofit Credit Program is run through TechSoup and is extended to the global community. This program provides $1000 per fiscal year (which means you can apply for each new fiscal year) and these credits may not be applicable for a small set of AWS services. Since Techsoup is managing the program, it charges a fee of $95.

AWS Imagine Grant is mainly designed for US-based nonprofit organizations. This program awards two different grants and the range is from $10000 to $100000 in promotional credits. This is in addition to the financial support.

Education Sector

Now education is an extensive sector and understandably multiple programs run for it. Not all programs offer credits, and instead some focus more on the AWS education opportunities without bothering any credit cards. This is especially useful for the student community.

AWS Educate is a great place to start the AWS journey for any cloud beginner. It is aimed towards providing a simple and crisp education path. AWS provides free hands-on labs in AWS console access, which is a great way to start, especially without worrying about any cost aspect. The documentation is awesome, with instructions in simple to follow language. If you're a student this program is highly recommended.

For researchers in universities, AWS has a special program AWS Cloud Credit For Research. Full-time faculty, research staff or even graduation, post-graduation students can apply for this program. For faculties and research staff the amount of promotional credits is decided by the proposal (no max cap), while students have a maximum cap of $5000. These credits can be utilized throughout the period outlined in the proposal. In short, timelines are not fixed as is the case in other programs.

AWS EdStart is an accelerator program geared towards the education sector tech startup. This two-tiered program not only provides promotional AWS credits but also access to resources, mentorship and everything that you can expect from a resourceful accelerator program.

Open Source Projects

Many AWS services are nothing but managed versions of the Open-source. RDS MySQL, RDS Postgres, Redis, OpenSearch are a few such managed services. Not surprisingly AWS is keen on providing credits for open source projects which are beneficial to the AWS ecosystem and AWS customers at large. While Open source foundations are major beneficiaries of these credits, small open-source projects also stand to benefit from promotional credits.

This program is distinct from other programs, in that while applying you need to ask for credits and how do you plan to utilize them. The AWS credits are not fixed and are evaluated on a case by case basis.

Startup Founders

The startups can get AWS credits in multiple ways. The number of credits depends on whether you’re associated with any Activate provider or not. In layman terms Activate provider could be an AWS affiliated accelerator or AWS partners which offer a bunch of services together, needed for startups.

AWS Active Founders is designed for early-stage bootstrapped startups. AWS provides a great deal of support through a lot of resources, support credits and ready to use infrastructure templates. The credit range starts with a modest $1000 but can eventually reach up to $100,000. For early-stage founders this is a great start, we know because we got these credits, which helped us to build our MVP. Early-stage startups not only need AWS promotional credits but many more tools e.g. for team collaboration, marketing and sales. AWS has partnered with Slack, HubSpot which helps immensely. Just go and apply for it.

The AWS Activate Portfolio is perhaps the largest among all the programs, offering up to $100,000 in credits. The catch is, these credits are given to startups coming from an affiliated accelerator program. AWS works with a great number of Activate Providers, so you’re way in is through these accelerator programs.

Even if your startup is not affiliated to any startup accelerator, you may still be able to purchase the credits. Companies like Secret and FounderPass sell the credits under their subscription offers. E.g. FounderPass provides - $10,000 in AWS Activate Credits valid for 2 years and 1 year of AWS Business Support (up to $1,500) with their $99/year subscription plan.

If you've previously applied for AWS Activate Portfolio, please ensure you are applying for a larger amount of AWS credits than your previously approved application(s). The lifetime maximum limit for AWS credits from Activate is $100,000.

Startup Communities

Another way AWS credits can be procured is via startup communities. Many communities/companies offer programs that offer a bouquet of different services to their subscribers.

Y-Combinator's startup school is a great source for founders. Even if you’re not looking for AWS credits, it still makes sense to join this course for its tremendous value. We did sign up for this course, and later realized an additional benefit it offers. Of course AWS credits.

There are many such communities that we are listing down.

CloudYali Team

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