Amazon SES vs. Sendgrid

Amazon SES and Sendgrid used to be favored for sending transactional emails but can be used for sending other email types, although with some limitations. Both have very large IP pools and offer very high deliverability (not to be confused with inbox placement) for high volume senders that smaller providers can’t match.

Built on top of the AWS architecture, Amazon Simple Email Service (SES) is a service that allows users to send emails at scale. Using Amazon SES directly requires developing a custom mechanism for processing bounces, complaints, and unsubscribes, and is required.

Amazon SES does NOT manage email campaigns, templates, or engagement reporting (opens, clicks).

If you already use Amazon SES for your transactional email you can connect your existing account to an email marketing platform like BigMailer so you can:

  • Store and manage your email template in an editor in BigMailer (no application code changes needed for updates).
  • Automatically place your subscribers into a List to send marketing emails to.
  • Send automated email sequences to new subscribers.
  • Keep your bounces and complaints synced up with your marketing lists.
  • See engagement analytics for your transactional emails.

If you are considering use of Amazon SES directly for your transactional email you will not have any analytics for your campaigns and your email templates will be stored as part of your application, making any edits more difficult to manage.

SendGrid vs. Amazon SES + BigMailer

SendGrid is one of the largest transactional email sending services. It offers a number of different APIs and supported client libraries. In addition to sending standard transactional emails over its API, SendGrid also offers a marketing platform with a drag-and-drop email template editor and online list management, but it’s offered on a separate pricing plan from it transactional email service and not all data points are fully in sync.

SendGrid Pricing for Transactional Vs. Marketing (Bulk) Campaigns

The transactional and marketing (bulk) emails at Sendgrid are priced completely separately – you pay for number of contacts stored for marketing emails and separately for the number of transactional emails sent. In other words, there is no financial advantage of consolidating your emails in a single platform like SendGrid. If you do, you pay twice to send two types of messages to the same email.

sendgrid plans


With Amazon SES you get first 62000 emails per month for free, and after the free limit the cost is $0.1 per 1000 emails sent. Read more about Amazon SES pricing.

If you use a platform like BigMailer, which supports bulk + automation + transactional emails, you have a single price point based on number of contacts stored on the platform, and offers unlimited email sending per month. You still pay to Amazon SES for sending emails.

SendGrid charges are based on a fixed number of campaigns per month with overage charges ranging $3.5-7.5 per 1000 emails.

For senders that only send 1 or 2 emails per month SendGrid pricing may be more favorable. For high frequency senders that send more than 2 emails per month the pricing that is based on number of contacts, like BigMailer’s, is more cost effective.

Subscriber Data Management

The subscriber list and more importantly bounce rate data in SendGrid isn’t synced up between the 2 systems that help you manage transactional and marketing emails. If you already use SendGrid for your transactional email and want to send marketing emails you need to manually import the list of customers into SendGrid marketing system and manually filter bounces from that list by exporting your bounce list from the transactional emails system first then importing it into marketing side. Seems like an unnecessary painful separation.

Tracking Options

While the marketing and transactional systems have separate separate subscriber record management this separation doesn’t apply to all account data and settings. There is only one place to define link tracking so the values are global and used on both marketing and transactional emails, including campaign level utm_campaign for Google Analytics (which shouldn’t be set on account level, but rather on campaign level). Lastly, link tracking is disabled by default so you need to actually turn it on to start sending your email engagement data to Google Analytics.

SendGrid Tracking Settings – global for both marketing and transactional emails.

For comparison, on BigMailer you can customize any additional parameters and utm_ tracking on a per campaign basis.

Google Analytcs utm parameters tracking

Google Analytcs utm parameters tracking

Dedicated IPs Option

With Amazon SES and BigMailer, you have an option to add as many dedicated IPs as you want, regardless of your list size or billing plan, at a low cost of $25 per month per IP. With SendGrid you don’t have such option.

Is it time to consolidate all email types in a single platform with simple flat pricing? We certainly think so.

Not convinced? Check out the price and basic benefit comparison below.

sendgrid alternative


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