Understanding AWS Cost Explorer usage records

AWS has a tool called Cost Explorer allows you to dive into your AWS services to understand what you’re paying and where.

Being AWS, if you want more detail than what you get by default, you can also pay more for a mildly upgraded version of Cost Explorer, which gives you hourly granularity – so if you’re testing a new service and want to really make sure the costs aren’t going to blow out, you can do so a little more safely by monitoring it on an hourly basis.

The documentation is a little vague about this though – there is a page called “Estimating cost for Cost Explorer hourly granularity” which explains Cost Explorer will start billing you for ‘usage records’ once you move into hourly granularity – but there’s no clear mention of what these are or how to track them.

When you turn this feature on you’re more or less forced to rely on their estimates of how many usage records will be used. I personally always find this completely daunting, given there is no way to cap your spend, so I was very keen to understand exactly how to at least measure my ‘usage records’ once I’d enabled hourly reporting, because I couldn’t really find any metrics for it anywhere obvious.

While I haven’t been able to answer that question, I can report that once you have enabled this feature, it does add Cost Explorer to the list of services available to filter in Cost Explorer itself:

This means you can at least track your overall spend on usage records, if not the actual number consumed.

As far as I could tell, even this information – that Cost Explorer would appear in Cost Explorer once you enabled hourly granularity – is not in the documentation anywhere. Amazon Q, their AI robot chat agent thing, thus is not able to provide useful answers on the topic, just referring you to how it’s estimated and priced.

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