AWS Free Tier: Your questions answered

By Nicola Wright

Amazon Web Services is a sprawling platform packed with services that cover all kinds of business needs using all manner of technologies.

With AWS, pretty much any functionality you could want from an IT perspective is available ‘as a service’, meaning there are no upfront costs and you only pay for the resources you use.

What you might not realize, though, is that a significant number of AWS products can actually be used without ever putting your hand in your pocket. That’s because AWS offers a Free Tier; a collection of tools and services that can be used completely free.

In this post, we’re going to answer all your questions about AWS Free Tier to help you make the most of this fantastic resource.

What is the AWS Free Tier?

The AWS Free Tier is a collection of over 100 AWS services that can be used for free. Whether you’re trialing products to see which is the best fit for your business, have a short-term or small-scale project on your hands, or you want to learn more about AWS and get some practical experience, you can access a big chunk of the AWS world before you need to spend a penny.

Is the AWS Free Tier really free?

The AWS Free Tier is really, truly free; you get access to a practical, valuable amount of cloud computing resources without having to pay a penny.

But there are limits involved for some products. Some products are free forever and have usage caps limiting how much resource you can consume per month, like AWS Service Catalog, which allocates users 1,000 free API calls per month. Others are entirely unlimited, for example, Amazon Chime, AWS’s video and audio conferencing service.

How long does the AWS Free Tier last?

There are three types of offers on the Free Tier:

  • Always Free Available to both new and existing AWS customers forever (subject to usage caps)
  • 12 Months Free Available to new AWS customers for one year following the creation of their AWS account—again there are some limits on usage with these products, so if you exceed these limits or if you continue to use them after 12 months, you will incur charges
  • Trials Short-term trials confined either to a period of time (e.g., two months) or a limited quantity of resource (e.g., 1,000 pages)

Do I need a credit card to use the AWS Free Tier?

You need to input payment details such as a credit or debit card to use the Free Tier, just in case you exceed any usage limits. As long as you don’t go over any of these limits, you won’t be charged.

How do you use the AWS Free Tier?

When you sign up for an AWS account, you’ll automatically be eligible to use the Free Tier for 12 months.  Once you’re signed up, you can go ahead and start using any of the Free Tier services right away.

Be sure to check what kind of offer you’re using—Always Free, 12 Months Free, or Trial—so you know what limits you need to work within in terms of both time and resource consumption. If you want to check whether your planned AWS project or usage falls within Free Tier limits, you can run it through the AWS Pricing Calculator.

To help you stay within the limits of the Free Tier, AWS sends out automatic email alerts through its AWS Budgets tool to let you know when you’ve used up 85% of your allowance. These alerts are sent for every Free Tier product you use that falls under the Always Free and 12 Months Free categories; simply opt-in through the Billing preferences section of your Billing Management Console.

You can also set custom alerts through AWS Budgets, including forecasts to let you know when you’re likely to run out of Free Tier resource.

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What’s included in the AWS Free Tier?

The AWS Free Tier makes many of AWS’s most popular products available to be utilized for free. More than 100 products and services are available on the Free Tier in some capacity, across categories like compute, storage, analytics, machine learning, and even robotics.

Analytics
Product Free Tier offer type Usage limitations
Amazon Elasticsearch Service 12 Months Free 750 hours per month
Amazon QuickSight Free Trial (2 months) 10 GB of capacity per month, >4 users
Amazon Redshift Free Trial (2 months) 750 hours per month
AWS Data Pipeline 12 Months Free 3 low-frequency preconditions
AWS Glue Always Free 1 million objects
Application Integration
Product Free Tier offer type Usage limitations
Amazon MQ 12 Months Free 750 hours per month
Amazon SQS Always Free 1 million requests
Amazon SWF Always Free 10,000 activity tasks
AWS Step Functions Always Free 4,000 state transitions per month
AWS AppSync 12 Months Free 250,000 query or data modifications per month
Business Productivity
Product Free Tier offer type Usage limitations
Amazon Chime Always Free None
Amazon Chime Pro 12 Months Free None
Amazon WorkDocs Free Trial (30 days) 1TB of storage per user, >50 users
Amazon WorkSpaces Free Trial >50 users
Amazon Honeycode Always Free 20 users, 2,500 rows/workbook
Compute
Product Free Tier offer type Usage limitations
Amazon EC2 12 Months Free 750 hours per month
AWS Lambda Always Free 1 million requests per month
Amazon Lightsail Free Trial (1 month) 750 hours
Amazon Elastic Container Registry 12 Months Free 500MB of storage per month
Elastic Load Balancing 12 Months Free 750 hours per month
Customer Engagement
Product Free Tier offer type Usage limitations
Amazon SES 12 Months Free 90 minutes per month
Amazon Connect Always Free 62,000 outbound messages per month
Database
Product Free Tier offer type Usage limitations
Amazon RDS 12 Months Free 750 hours per month
Amazon DynamoDB Always Free 25GB of storage
Amazon ElastiCache 12 Months Free 750 hours
Amazon Redshift Free Trial (2 months) 750 hours per month
Amazon Database Migration Service Always Free 750 hours
Amazon Keyspaces Free Trial (3 months) 30 million on-demand reads/writes per month
Developer Tools
Product Free Tier offer type Usage limitations
Amazon CloudWatch Always Free 10 customer metrics and alarms
AWS CodeBuild Always Free 100 build minutes
AWS CodeCommit Always Free 5 active users per month
AWS CodePipeline Always Free 1 active pipeline per month
AWS X-Ray Always Free 100,000 traces per month
AWS CodeArtifact Always Free 2GB of storage per month
End User Computing
Product Free Tier offer type Usage limitations
Amazon AppStream 2.0 Free Trial 40 hours
Front-end Web and Mobile
Product Free Tier offer type Usage limitations
Amazon SNS Always Free 1 million publishes
Amazon Cognito Always Free 50,000 MAUs per month
Amazon Pinpoint 12 Months Free 5,000 targeted users per month
AWS Amplify Console 12 Months Free 15GB per month
AWS Device Farm Free Trial 1,000 device minutes
Amazon Location Service Free Trial (3 months) 500k map tiles / 200k position writes /200k position evaluations
Game Tech
Product Free Tier offer type Usage limitations
Amazon GameLift 12 Months Free 125 hours per month
Internet of Things
Product Free Tier offer type Usage limitations
AWS Greengrass 12 Months Free 3 devices
AWS IoT 12 Months Free 250,000 messages per month
AWS IoT Device Management 12 Months Free 50 remote actions per month
AWS IoT Events 12 Months Free 2,500 message evaluations per month
AWS IoT Things Graph 12 Months Free 5,000 steps per month
Machine Learning
Product Free Tier offer type Usage limitations
Amazon SageMaker Free Trial (2 months) Several

 

Amazon Comprehend 12 Months Free 50K units of text per API per month / 5 Topic Modeling Jobs >1MB each per month
Amazon Comprehend Medical Free Trial (3 months) 2.5 million characters
Amazon Lex 12 Months Free 10,000 text requests per month
Amazon Polly 12 Months Free 5 million characters per month
Amazon Rekognition 12 Months Free 5,000 images per month
Amazon SageMaker Ground Truth Free Trial (2 months) 500 objects labeled per month
Amazon Transcribe 12 Months Free 60 minutes per month
Amazon Translate 12 Months Free 2 million characters per month
Amazon Augmented AI 12 Months Free 500 objects
Amazon Textract Free Trial 1,000 pages per month
Amazon Kendra Free Trial (30 days) 750 hours
Amazon Personalize Free Trial (2 months) >20GB data processing per month
AWS DeepRacer Free Trial (30 days) 10 hours / 5GB storage
Amazon Forecast Free Trial (2 months) >10,000 forecasts per month
AWS Fraud Detector Free Trial (2 months) >50 compute hours month
Amazon Lookout for Vision Free Trial (3 months) 10 training hours per month
Amazon Lookout for Equipment Free Trial (1 month) 250 training hours per month
Management and Governance
Product Free Tier offer type Usage limitations
Amazon CloudWatch Always Free 10 Custom Metrics and 10 Alarms / 1 million API Requests / 5GB of Log Data Ingestion and 5GB of Log Data Archive / 3 Dashboards with up to 50 Metrics Each per Month
AWS License Manager Always Free None
AWS OpsWorks for Chef Automate 12 Months Free 7,500 node hours per month
AWS OpsWorks for Puppet Enterprise 12 Months Free 7,500 node hours per month
AWS Well-Architected Tool Always Free None
AWS CloudTrail Always Free 1 trail
AWS Systems Manager Always Free Includes 12 core System Manager features
AWS CloudFormation Always Free 1,000 handler operations per month
AWS Control Tower Always Free None
AWS Organizations Always Free None
Media Services
Product Free Tier offer type Usage limitations
Amazon Elastic Transcoder 12 Months Free 20 minutes of transcoding
Amazon Interactive Video Service 12 Months Free 100 hours of output / 5 hours of input per month
Migration and Transfer
Product Free Tier offer type Usage limitations
AWS Database Migration Service Always Free 750 Hours of instance usage /

50 GB of General Purpose storage

AWS Migration Hub Always Free None
AWS Application Migration Service Always Free 1,000 applications per account
CloudEndure Migration Free Trial (90 days) None
AWS Service Catalog Always Free 1,000 API calls per month
AWS Server Migration Service Always Free None
AWS Application Migration Service Free Trial (90 days) None
Migration Evaluator Always Free None
Networking and Content Delivery
Product Free Tier offer type Usage limitations
Amazon API Gateway 12 Months Free 1 million calls received per month
Robotics
Product Free Tier offer type Usage limitations
AWS RoboMaker Free Trial (30 days) 25 SU-hours
Security, Identity, and Compliance
Product Free Tier offer type Usage limitations
Amazon GuardDuty Free Trial (30 days) None
Amazon Inspector Free Trial (90 days) 250 agent-assessments
Amazon Macie Always Free 1GB
AWS Key Management Service Always Free 20,000 requests per month
AWS Security Hub Free Trial (30 days) None
Amazon Detective Free Trial (30 days) None
AWS Audit Manager Free Trial (60 days) 35,000 resource assessments per month
AWS WAF Bot Control Always Free 10 million requests per month
Serverless
Product Free Tier offer type Usage limitations
Amazon DynamoDB Always Free 25GB of storage
AWS Lambda Always Free 1 million free requests per month
Amazon SNS Always Free 1 million publishes
Amazon API Gateway 12 Months Free 1 million API calls received per month
Amazon SQS Always Free 1 million requests
AWS Step Functions Always Free 4,000 state transitions per month
AWS AppSync 12 Months Free 250,000 query or data modifications per month
Storage
Product Free Tier offer type Usage limitations
Amazon S3 12 Months Free 5GB of standard storage
Amazon CloudFront 12 Months Free 50GB of data transfers out
Amazon EFS 12 Months Free 5GB of storage
Amazon Elastic Block Storage 12 Months Free 30GB of General Purpose or Magnetic storage
Amazon Glacier (Glacier API only) Always Free 10GB of data retrievals
AWS Storage Gateway Always Free 100GB per account
Amazon ECS Anywhere Free Trial (6 months) 2200 hours per month

When does the AWS Free Tier expire?

AWS Free Tier offers expire at different times depending on their type. Always Free products don’t expire (though many do have resource-related upper usage limits).

Predictably, the Free Tier for any products in the 12 Months Free category expires one year from the date you sign up to AWS.

Expiry dates for Trial products on the Free Tier vary; some offer unlimited free usage for a set period of time, for example, 30 days, some offer a pre-defined amount of usage that has to be consumed within a specific time period, for example, 750 hours to be used within one month.

How do I check my AWS Free Tier expiry date?

The easiest way to find out when your 12 months of Free Tier access expires is to check your email to find out when you initially signed up for an AWS account. Your 12 months’ of Free Tier use will expire one year from your sign-up date. You can also use the Billing Dashboard within your AWS account to see what month you signed up (it’ll be the first monthly bill on your account).

Don’t worry though, AWS will send you an email when you’re approaching the end of your free access period so you can prepare.

What happens when the AWS Free Tier expires?

When your Free Tier access expires, you’ll need to start paying on-demand rates for any resources you use going forward. If you’re happy to start paying to continue using these services, you don’t have to do anything, you’ll simply be billed monthly for your usage.

If you don’t want to incur any charges, make sure you shut down or delete any resources running on your account. You can also delete your account if you want to.

How do I upgrade from the AWS Free Tier?

If you want to keep using the services you used on the Free Tier once it’s expired, you don’t have to do anything; you’ll simply be charged a standard on-demand rate for anything you use in the future.

If you want to use a more expensive resource type than the one offered on the Free Tier, you cannot simply pay the difference. You’ll have to sign up for the service directly, circumventing the Free Tier altogether.

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