Saturday, March 21, 2015

You're The Top

It's not really that hard to decode the logic. The iPhone 6 is newer and has more goodies than the iPhone 5. The Boeing 787 is a more efficient airplane than the 737 or 767. And just like Olympic medals, health insurance gets better the more precious the metal, working your way up from bronze to platinum. That being said, while I get that Windows 10 will be solve a lot of issues than surfaced with Windows 7 and 8, I do wonder about the black hole that would have been Windows 9. But I digress.

If you move up the scale in value, whether that scale is empirical or subjective, it's supposed to be better. That makes it an easy shorthand to let us consumers know that the new whatzit is worth spending our hard earned dollars on, even if our old unit is functioning just fine, thank you. Of course, the question is whether the step up is worth the trouble and cost, whether it is incremental or substantial. In software they deal with that issue by numbering big changes in whole numbers, while small tweaks and bug fixes are denoted in decimals, resulting in versions like Evernote 5.8.4. But would Delta rush to spend $100 million on an Airbus if the model was labeled A320.3? And perhaps just as important, how would you feel about flying on the 320.2 version, knowing there's a dot three plane with the bugs fixed parked at the next gate?

However, it's not always that easy to figure out which is mo' better. In my case, since I have some overseas trips on the horizon, I was doing a little advance leg work to see if all my stuff was up to snuff. I used to travel beyond these shores a good deal, but have been mostly confined to domestic sojourns of late. So I was doing a quick inventory of to see if what I had was still the best for going over there.

From a physical standpoint, my gear has mostly morphed to be international enabled as it is. Most everything these days is dual voltage, so no need for those bulky and heavy transformers I used to carry. Likewise my phone. Most smartphones today are multi-band, so they work in just about every country. Once on the ground, all you need to do is procure a local chip, and you could make and receive calls like a native.  

But then there's the financial angle. A little research revealed that much of the world now relies on credit cards that have an embedded electronic chip for security, a change which is just starting to migrate its way into the US. Additionally, overseas merchants rely on a PIN code to approve the use of a given card, while in the US, cards with chips are usually matched to signatures. So if you want to spend money like a local, you really need Chip & Pin, vs. Chip & Sign,

So I did a search to see what cards have that feature. And here's where the ranking get fuzzy. Multiple card issuers have multiple products with multiple designations. Some are labeled Premier, some are Premier Plus. Others are Rewards, others Rewards Prestige. Making sense of which is best is, well, confusing to say the least. Is Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite on a par with Chase Sapphire Preferred? Is that the equivalent of Citi Diamond? It's a weird game of rock paper scissors. Does Diamond cut Sapphire? Does Elite cover Premier? Does Prestige top all? One, two, three, shoot.

The problem is that the names don't help me. I need something simpler, something more direct than making a massive spreadsheet which details all the pluses and minuses, which correlates the latest features with the widest acceptance and the lowest fees. It all recalls what Nigel Tufnel told Marty DiBergi in "This is Spinal Tap" as to why the band's amps are better than any other: "You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?"  Where, indeed. Call it Platinum or Elite, Prestige or Titanium, but what I really want is a card that goes to eleven.


Marc Wollin of Bedford carries just two cards, one for personal and one for business. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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