AWS offers you the opportunity to pay cloud bills before they’ve been issued

Whatever happened to cloud being a super way to preserve cashflow? It turns out that for some of you, that's not the priority

Update Amazon Web Services has started allowing its customers to pay in advance.

As the name implies, a facility called “Advanced Pay” will let you send money to Jeff Bezos before your bill for cloud services has been issued. “Once you add funds to Advance Pay, AWS will automatically use them to pay for your invoices when they become due for payment,” states AWS’s announcement of the service.

Amazon’s product pages explain that the service only operates in US dollars, and only applies to AWS’s own services — third-party software you buy from the AWS Marketplace is billed as usual.

The Register could not find an explanation for why anyone would send Amazon — which in 2020 had revenue of $386 billion — money in advance.

Your humble hack thinks the mere suggestion is decidedly at odds with AWS’s long insistence that only chumps sink capital into IT instead of treating it as an operational expense. AWS and other clouds make an exception for that reasoning when they offer deep discounts for things like reserved instances — but even those sometimes offer monthly billing.

One thing AWS never wavers from asserting is that it only does stuff that customers deeply desire — so perhaps there are some users out there who want to deposit cash in the Bank of Bezos rather than have it in their own coffers.

If you’re one of them, feel free to contact me and explain yourself.

Otherwise, we’re inclined to chalk this one up to Amazon’s corporate culture of paying tax or posting profits only when strictly necessary — and a desire to have customers’ finances follow into similarly odd arrangements. ®

UPDATE 23:30 UTC, June 27th. A weekend's worth of feedback from readers has yielded three reasons for Advance Pay being a useful idea:

  • Entities like government agencies with use-it-or-lose-it budgets that would have to hand back unused money at the end of a financial year like the idea of being able to put some money in the bank of Bezos;
  • Businesses with seasonal cashflow fluctuations using quarters of strong cashflow to build up some credit ahead of slower times;
  • Users in nations whose currencies aren't offered by AWS like the idea to rack up some credits when exchange rates are favorable. "This way I can choose to transfer funds to Bezos when the ratio is the lowest", wrote one reader.

If there are other reasons you like Advance Pay, let me know.

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