Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bill Marriott's 12 Rules for Success

One of my favorite reads is Marriott on the Move. The blog is written by Bill Marriott, former Chief Executive Officer, and the Executive Chairman of the Board for Marriott Internationals' Chain. In Marriott on the Move, he talks about leadership and management.

I am a geek for anything organizational development. Therefore, I read any new post almost immediately. His most recent post was amazing.

His 12 Rules for Success:

  1. Challenge your team to do better and do it often
     2.  Take good care of your associates, and they'll take good care of your customers, and
          they'll come back

     3.  Celebrate your people's success, not your own.

     4.  Known what you're good at and keep improving.

     5.  Do it and do it now. Err on the side of taking action.

     6.  Communicate by listening to your customers, associates and competitors.

     7.  See and be seen. Get out of your office, walk the talk, make yourself visible 
          and accessible.

     8.  Success is always in the details.

     9.  It's more important to hire people with the right qualities than with 
          specific experience.

   10.  Customer needs may vary, but their bias for quality never does.

   11.  Always hire people who are smarter than you are.

   12.  View every problem as an opportunity to grow.

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Why I Am Sticking With Club Carlson

Over a year ago, I wrote about my experience Churning After Midnight. For some reason, I decided that applying for credit card drunk would be fun. Well, I don't recommend doing it.

At the time, I applied for and was approved for the Chase Southwest Business & Personal cards and the US Bank Club Carlson Visa.

One year later, its annual fee time. At the moment, I am unsure about keeping the Southwest Credit Cards. However, I have decided to pay the $75 annual fee for the Club Carlson card.

For $75, I get the following benefits:

  •  40,000 Bonus Points


            That's enough for two nights at a Category 4 hotel.

  •   Buy 1, Get 1 Free Award Nights

           When you redeem Points for 2 or more consecutive Award Nights, your last night is free. 
           That is why your 40,000 bonus point is worth 2 free nights at Category 4 hotels.

  •  Gold Status

          Having the credit card automatically upgrades your status with Club Carlson to Gold.
          Gold Status gives you a wide range of benefits; late check-out, room upgrades, free
          internet and many others. You can see the whole list of benefits, here.

The 40,000 bonus points, Buy 1, Get 1 award nights and Gold status are the main reasons for me to pay the annual fee for the credit card. I only used the award night benefit once in 2013, on a trip to Austin. My sister and I stayed at a Country Inn and Suites and saved over $200+ by using 28,000 points for 2 nights.  

This year, I hope to use the award night benefit more often. My travels will take me to places with more Club Carlson hotels.  Plus I am sitting on a nice stash of Gold Points. I plan on sticking with Club Carlson even with their most recent devaluation.

Earlier this month, Club Carlson announced the creation of a 7th redemption level. The 7th redemption level is only going to have a few properties in it (Most in Paris, London and New York City). At the moment, I have no desire to travel to any of those area, so it doesn't really effect me. If Paris builds the restaurants in the abandon metro stations; then I might change my mind.

One of the biggest decisions in this game is the annual fees. It isn't cheap to keep all of the credit cards with annual fees. However, you can't cancel every credit card either. You need a balance. Keep some and let some go is my strategy. 

Congratulations Club Carlson for making it to Year 2!
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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Abandoned Metro Stations

Paris is known as the City of Lights.  When I visited in 2004, I was at awe at the beauty of the city at night. Not all cities look amazing at night, but Paris is one of those that does. You can feel an energy at night that the city lacks during the day. Most tourists flock to the banks of the Seine at night to experience that vibe.

According to, "Paris mayoral candidate Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet announced to earlier this month a plan to turn the city’s 11 deserted metro stations into public spaces. The politician worked with architect Manal Rachdi and urban planner Nicolas Laisné to create renderings of proposed renovations."  

The abandoned metro stations could become nightclubs, art galleries, restaurants, theaters or even a swimming pool.

"The proposal is similar to other urban renewal projects such as New York City’s High Line, which turned an old train track into an urban park and one of the city’s most visited locations."

Here are a few additional renderings from OXO Architectures:

How cool would it be to go to a pool or theater underground?

This is an amazing idea and I fully support it. Turning abandoned metro stations into tourist attractions is a smart idea. It creates "new" tourist attractions and these may bring people back to the city to visit. Rarely do tourists visit a city twice. After seeing an attraction like the Effile Tower once, you don't really need to make a trip a second time. However, if Paris created these underground "hot spots," it could bring back repeat travelers. Personally, I would seriously consider a visit to the City of Lights just to visit these underground treasures. 

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Lesson I Learned On My President's Day Weekend

Over President's Day Weekend, I was invited to go to a cabin with a bunch of friends. The cabin located in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia promised to be a relaxing weekend.

As I previously wrote, living in a city can be hectic and sometimes the city can start to feel overwhelming. For this reason, any time my friends invite me to escape the city, I jump on the offer regardless of the location.

This cabin weekend promised drinking, a fire-pit/Smores, a hot tub and high speed internet. In reality, only 1 of those happened. The Drinking!

The problems with the weekend started less than .1 mile from the cabin. A few days earlier, the region received a large snow storm. The final road to the cabin is a combination of gravel and broken pavement with a steep incline.

We were warned by the owner of the cabin that we would need 4 wheeled drive or chains on our tires. Us, city slickers, did not heed the advice. We made it half way-up the hill and started to slide down the hill backwards directly into a snow bank.

We parked the car and luckily hopped a ride with a local to our cabin. Thank you, Charlie!

After arriving to the cabin, we soon learned that the hot tub was broken. A quick call to the owner and we learned that the cabin lost power and the hot tub froze destroying the pump. Therefore, no hot tub.

Before coming to the cabin, we stopped at Lowe's to pick up wood for the fire for fire. The "fire pit" needed to be dug out and was more of an oven than a fire. Plus it was in the "driveway." Not a great place to sit by the fire.

What made the situation worse was the Marshmallows? The marshmallows, bought at Walmart, for the S'mores, were over 1 year past its expiration.  They were soft on the outside, but hard as rock inside.

The bedrooms in this place were decorated interestingly.


 Now the worst part....the plumbing stopped working; leaving us with only an outhouse.

Kidding! The plumbing never went out. But if it did, it would have been par for course.

The high-speed internet was just a little better than dial-up. I spent most of the weekend on my cell phone, but service could only be found in one corner of the house or by the nonworking hot tub.

After all the disappointments of the cabin, the best part of the trip was the company. Add in lots of alcohol and good times were had by all.

This trip was refreshing. No points were earned. No points were spent. There was no need to rush to the airport or hotels to check-out of. Sometime the best times occur when you do nothing. Its watching the Olympics watching the sun set behind a big hill. Or its playing beer pong, outside in 20 degree weather, with your fraternity brothers racing to finish before the beer freezes. I could have jetted off to some warm island and layed on a beach by myself; however, I don't think I would have had a great time.

What could have made the weekend better?

Probably earning points. However, it isn't always about points. That's something I am learning ....

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Monday, February 24, 2014

Ink Cartridges Can Be A Gold Mine

What do printer and boat have in common? They both can cost a fortune to keep running....

Printer ink isn't cheap, but its a necessary component of a working printer.

About 10 years ago, I came across the website I was in college and needed to find a cheap replacement ink cartridge for my printer. Ever since that day, I have been a loyal fan of the website.

Currently, AAdvantage Shopping Mall is offering 12pts per $1 spent at I am not positive that this offer is for everyone or only those who have CitiCards.

Also, you can use code FROST and save 15% off your order and free shipping for orders over $55.

Typically, I don't write about specials on shopping malls, because they change so quickly. However, I have used this company many, many times. And now you can earn 12 miles per $1. Its a win, win, win!

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Gerald R Ford Airport Joins Thanks Again

MLive reports that Gerald R Ford Airport (GRR) has signed an agreement with ThanksAgain to bring the program to the airport.

I wrote about ThanksAgain here. In summary, you register your credit or debit card with ThanksAgain. Then on your next airport visit shop at participating stores, restaurants and parking companies and earn 1pt for every dollar spent.

The most interesting part of the MLife article was that the GRR board paid $10,000 to join ThanksAgain.

"The airport paid a $10,000 sign-up fee and also pay a small amount based on each transaction. The program's cost, officials hope, will be recouped by travelers' purchases."
$10,000 isn't a lot of money for an airport to spend on a loyalty program. However, the money will be wasted if people do not sign-up for the program. After the high profile attack on Target's credit card system, which result in many people's credit card data being compromised, people might be hesitant to give ThanksAgain their credit card information. Personally, I was hesitant to do it and I am addicted to points. Now, think about average Joe.

For the $10,000 investment to be considered a good use, the airport authority must advertise the new program heavily. Otherwise, ThanksAgain is $10,000 richer.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Another New Millennial Focused Hotel

The Carlson Rezidor hotel group is the latest group to create a brand devoted to the millennial traveler. The new brand, known as Radisson Red, will open its first location next year in Europe.

"The Radisson Red brand will focus on technology will include a mobile application that will not only allow guests to skip receptions for check-in, but order a drink in the bar, food from the deli, flowers through an online concierge or a taxi for the airport; manage their own personal profile and preferences; and manage the environment within their room." The smartphone is the best friend of any young person. It will eventual be our key to our room, our identification to get served at hotel bar and our credit card to pay for the room.

"Red will focus on the younger traveler, but we see this as a long-term play," says Gordon McKinnon, Carlson's chief branding officer. He said the company expects the brand to evolve to keep up with "changes in attitudes and technologies."
The pictures of what the rooms will look like make me want to stay there:

Each Radisson Red will have a communal area with a bar and other activities. 

The Millennial Generation, often defined as those born from 1980 to 2000, is becoming a powerful force in the travel industry. For this reason, many of the major hoteliers are creating brands focused to this new group.
Radisson Red is joining an ever growing group of millennial traveler focused hotels. Starwood created the Aloft brand. Hyatt has the Andaz brand. While Marriott create AC Marriott, a joint venture with a Spanish hotel operator, that is plans to bring to the US soon. Rumor has it Hilton will announce its own youth brand this year.
Carlson Rezidor hopes to have 60 Radision Red hotels by 2020 worldwide. 
Will you give Radisson Red a try?

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

5 Things To Know About IHG

Personal Finance Digest wrote a post about Three Things To Know About IHG. The post was very informative, but he missed some very important parts about IHG.

    1.  IHG Credit Card Gets You Platinum Status 

         Yes, there is a secret 80,000 point card offer. However, one of the secondary benefits of
         the card is Platinum Status.

          Platinum Status is the top status of the IHG chain. It doesn't get you great benefits, but its
          better than nothing:

    2.  Intercontinental Hotels Have Their Own Status

            While Platinum status is the top status for most of the IHG hotels, Intercontinental
            hotels have their own status: Ambassador Status. Unlike Platinum Status earned
            from getting the credit card, Ambassador status must be purchased.

            In November, I wrote about how I was wavering on purchasing Ambassador
            Status. In the end, I decided to shell out the 32,000 points for it. With only two
            stays under my belt, I so far think it was a great decision to buy Ambassador status.

           The benefits of Ambassador status are numerous:

          Also, it gives you Platinum Status with IHG. A Win, Win, Win!

      3. Ambassador Status Could Be Bought for 23,800 Points

           Wait, didn't I say that I purchased Ambassador Status for 32,000 points? Yes, but my net
           cost of getting Ambassador status came out to only 23,800 and the same could happen
           for you.

           First, if you have the IHG credit card, you get a 10% rebate on all point redemption
           including buying Ambassador Status. 32,000 x 10% = 3,200 points.

           Next, one of the benefits of getting Ambassador Status is a 5,000 points certificate.

           Ambassador Status for 23,800 points:

                   32,000 - 3,200 (10% Credit Card Rebate) -5,000 (Points Certificate) = 23,800 points

       4. IHG Members Get Free Internet

           Starting this year, any member of the IHG's membership program will be given free
           internet, during any stay.

          Unlike other hotels, there is no minimum membership level to get the free internet.
          Any member of the program, even basic members, can get free internet access.

       5.  A Worldly Hotel Chain

           IHG hotels has 4,400 hotels in 100 countries. That's a little over 50% of UN
           member counties.

      •     Hilton has only 540 hotels in 78 countries
      •     Hyatt has 548 hotels in 48 countries
      •     Marriott has 3,800 hotels in 72 countries
      •     Choice Hotels has 6,300 hotels in 30 countries
           The IHG brand is a true world wide brand. If you are traveling to a country,
           you have a 50/50 chance that an IHG hotel will be there. 

There it is 5 Things To Know About IHG. 

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Canada & Mexico To Open More Direct Routes

The Toronto Star is reporting that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is in Mexico City with a plan to open up more direct airline routes between Canada and Mexico. 

Sergio Alcocer Martinez, Mexico’s undersecretary for North America, said "the new air agreement would greatly expand the current one between the two countries, which is more than 50 years old. It would allow more direct Mexican flights to Canadian cities, beyond the current routes to Montreal and Toronto."

For Mexico to give greater access to Canadian Airlines, the Mexicans are going to want something in return. That something is the lifting of requirement that Mexicans get a visa for entry into Canada. The visa requirement was added in 2009 to combat an increase in "bogus asylum seekers."

The lack of direct flights from Mexico to Canada was a shock to me. A few months ago, I was trying to connect a trip from Mexico City to a visit with a friend in Calgary. However, there are no direct flights between the two. My only option was to do a connection in Dallas, Phoenix or Vancouver etc.:

Each of these trips take 8+ hours or a full business day. 

Carlo Dade, director of the Centre for Trade and Investment Policy at the Canada West Foundation put it correctly.  “If I have to make two connections to get down to Mexico, am I really going to do that deal? Am I going to open a plant? Am I going to schedule business meetings? It’s a pain and has an impact on business.”
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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Earn Miles For Borrowing Money

Searching the United MileagePlus Earn Page, I discovered a new partner: Prosper.

Prosper is a Peer to Peer lending site that offers loans to individuals outside the constraints of banks. The loans are unsecured and can be for almost anything. Investors (average joe's like me) buy a percentage, typically in $25 increments, of your loan. These investors might ask you questions about your credit history, job, and purpose of the loan. If enough investors "buy-into" your request, your loan will be funded.

Now onto the offer by United, the message on the earn page doesn't give much information about the offer except that you can earn miles for every $1 borrowed:

"Earn award miles for every dollar you borrower with a personal loan through Prosper - up to 18,000 miles. Prosper offers low fixed rates with no hidden fees or prepayment penalty. Visit Prosper;s and receive your free rate quote today."

The landing page for Prosper isn't any better:

The real details can only be found after you click on the #1 at the bottom of the page.

Who is eligible for this offer?

Anyone who is current United MileagePlus Member.

How Many Points Can You Earn?

This depends upon if you get a promotional offer via mail. According to the Terms & Conditions, there are 3 different earning rates: A) 1 pt for $1  B) .514 pt for $1 or C) .343 pt for $1

If you don't get a direct mail piece with a "unique personal offer code," you will automatically get Offer C,      or .343 pts for every $1 loan obtained.

When will miles be deposited?

The miles will be deposited into your MileagePlus account within 6 to 8 weeks after the loan proceeds have been disbursed.

Therefore, you will have to keep the loan open for at least 2 to 3 months. Otherwise, the points may be disqualified.

What does a loan through Prosper cost?

Let's assume you take out a $10,000 loan for an engagement ring.

If you continue with the application process, Prosper will pull your credit. Proceed cautiously with the application process. I have not gone through the application process; therefore, I can't tell you an exact interest rate. 

Moving forward with my fake engagement ring loan, I can assume an interest rate of about 10% or an A rating with a loan term of 3 years. 

On a $10,000 loan, I will pay $1,000 yearly in interest or about $83.33 a month. Assuming a minimum of 3 months having the loan, I would pay about $250 in interest payments. In addition, Prosper charges a closing fee as well:

On top of the $250 interest payment, I would have to pay $400 in a closing fee. The closing fee will be deducted from the loan proceeds.

To get my $10,000 loan, I would have to pay $650.

What I would earn from my $10,000?

Since I have not received a promotion offer, I would only earn .343 bonus miles per $1.

                                  $10,000 x .343 bonus miles = 3,430 miles

Is this a Good Offer?

The ultimate question is this a promotion worth doing. After working through the process, the answer is no!

My 3,430 United miles earned would cost me $650 or $0.189 per miles- ouch! You can buy miles from United for cheaper than that.

Now, lets assume that you got targeted for the 1 mile for $1 borrowed offer. You would earn 10,000 mile for $10,000 borrowed and still only pay $650 or $0.065. This is still higher than buying the miles.

Put into prospective, the new Citi American Airlines Executive card has an annual fee of $450, but earns you 100,000 miles, at this moment.  If you had $650 to blow on miles, wouldn't it be better to get the new Citi card?

On the other hand, if you need a loan from Prosper anyway; why not earn points for doing it?

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