The Financial Impact of Customer Service

Customer service is what drives the success of the any business. Some would surely say, "No Errol, a great product or service concept drives the success of any business." While that statement is somewhat true, a great product or service concept without great customer service is like expecting your beautiful garden flowers to flourish without your giving attention to them. I have often found that you don't get upper management's or the owner's full attention regarding customer service unless you provide the financial impact to the company. Customer service has a dual role as it both creates and preserves revenue. Let me explain why I believe this to be true.

Customer service creates revenue via the word of mouth avenue. When a great product or service is coupled with great customer service, your customers become your ambassadors. Their willingness to speak positively about your business leads to additional customers, thereby creating additional revenue. Recent research by the Technical Assistance Research Program (TARP) indicates that for every 10 people hearing either positive or negative "word of mouth" information, 1 person takes action. That one new customer, should they receive the level of service expected, will in turn keep the positive "word of mouth" cycle in motion. Another form of revenue creation as a result of great customer service are price increases. TARP has also studied the impact of price increases on the customer's willingness to continue to do business with companies. In a study of the banking industry, only 10 percent of survey respondents who had not experienced a customer service related problem expressed dissatisfaction with an increase in fees and charges. This means that 90 percent of survey respondents were okay with the price increases due to the level of customer service provided by their particular bank.

In regards to customer service acting as a revenue preserver, there is one question that must be answered before we continue. That question is - How much is your customer worth to your business? Whether your company is small or large, the need to determine what your customer is worth to your business is critical when calculating the amount of revenue being preserved by addressing customer service related issues. For example, if your business has 1,000 customers and the average annual revenue generated by each customer is $400.00. If 10 percent of those customers experience customer service related problems, that's 100 customers. Bear with me as we start the calculations! Now let's assume that 50% of those customers don't even bother to complain, they just simply go away. Their decision to leave without complaining represents $20,000.00 in lost revenue.

What about the other 50% that do complain? Let's say that you're able to satisfy 40% (20), 40% (20) become frustrated with your attempts to satisfy and 20% (10) remain dissatisfied. So now let's consider the repurchase behavior of those complaining customers. Should 10% (2) of the customers that you're able to satisfy after they complain decide to not repurchase, that represents $800.00 in lost revenue. In the frustrated with your attempts to satisfy group, 25 % (5) discontinue purchases with your company, which represents $2000.00 in revenue. On to the customers that remain dissatisfied after complaining - 60% (6) of this group decide not to repurchase from your company, which means an additional $2400.00 in lost revenue. The total potential annual revenue lost in this scenario is $25,200.00! Wait, there's more. Remember the "word of mouth" factor discussed earlier. These dissatisfied customers will tell others about their experience with your company. In this scenario, when you consider the 50 customers that left without complaining, add the 13 customers that complained yet decided not to repurchase, that's 63 customers who have the potential to utilize negative "word of mouth" marketing. If these dissatisfied customers tell 10 additional people about their experiences (630 people) and 1 in 10 acts on the information (63 people), there's potential revenue missed due to dissatisfied customers. Even if the new customers average annual purchases equals $300.00, you're still possibly facing $18900.00 in lost potential revenue. Don't forget about the cost side of poor customer service - the employee costs to resolve customer complaints and the material costs when rework is required to satisfy the customer. Take this example and apply your real numbers to determine the financial impact to your business. Whew! Lots of calculations, but it's definitely worth it when it comes to determining the financial impact of customer service.

The key to preserving revenue is to: 1. Be consistent in your service delivery and 2. Encourage your customers to complain. Consistency in your service delivery leads to loyalty, less complaints and even more important, fewer reasons for the silent defections of the non-complainers. Encourage your customers to complain as this gives you an opportunity to retain their business. The example above illustrates the financial impact of non-complaining customers. Offer multiple ways to complain - at the point of purchase, on your website, via chat, 1-800 #s. Don't forget to monitor social media for comments regarding your company and respond to the complaints in a timely manner. Remember, don't take customer service for granted. The financial impact is huge!!

Three Management Lessons From the Financial Crisis on Wall Street

In a series of unprecedented moves, the Federal Reserve stepped in as "lender of last resort" to save a financial system on the brink of disaster. Reuters news agency (September 19, 2008) called it an "extraordinary" rescue plan. First it was Bear Stearns, next were Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and AIG. Then, the Fed converted two investment banks, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, into conventional banks, a move that will significantly increase oversight and regulation of these institutions.

In a matter of months, with most of the damage occurring in a matter of days, the very foundation of the world's financial system had been shaken.

While there were many interesting details that chronicled the steps and missteps leading to this crisis, and while this saga will very likely change the face of banking (certainly investment banking) in the United States and probably the world, one interesting question that needs to be asked is how we got ourselves into this mess. Where we victims of "a pattern of dishonesty on the part of financial institutions, and incompetence on the part of policymakers" as suggested by George Stiglitz, Nobel prize-winning economist and Professor at Columbia University writing in the Guardian on September 16, 2008?

There is another interesting question that also needs to be asked. Are there lessons that all managers can take away from this extraordinary crisis?

Three lessons seem to be worth considering.

Managing in an Age of Complexity The first lesson is that we manage in an age of complexity. Software applications (ERP), as one example, can be very complex when independent modules function as an integrated system. Drug discovery (Vioxx), another example, can be complex when the easier breakthroughs have already been made. Even public works projects (Boston's Big Dig) can be complex when constrained by existing infrastructure and social issues.

Certainly, the crisis on Wall Street has taught us that the way in which our financial system has evolved over the last decade has added an unprecedented layer of complexity to an already complex system.

Consider the players and their recent behavior within this system. 1. Prospective home buyers, motivated by increasing home prices, applied for mortgages. 2. Mortgage brokers, motivated by earning commissions, were happy to oblige and write these mortgages, even when the ability of the borrowers to meet their monthly payments was uncertain. 3. The mortgages were then sold to mortgage consolidators who asked few questions as they bundled this debt into Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs). The objective of this bundling process was to spread the risk much like purchasing shares in a mutual fund , with its hundreds of stocks, spreads investment risk. 4. Then, the CDOs were sold as high yield investments to institutions such as banks, securities firms, and insurance companies. 5. AIG then insured the CDOs so institutions that held these instruments would be confident that their investment and income streams would be secure. Indeed this was a complex system, one built on trust (CDOs were unregulated), and one in which everyone prospered as long as the housing bubble continued to grow.

But it didn't.

Then, in August 2007, the bubble burst. Home values started to fall. Discovering that the equity in their homes was less than its value, many homeowners walked out the front door leaving the keys behind. Now, there were more homes on the market and prices continued to fall. Lower prices accelerated the process and the spiral continued.

With homeowners missing payments and eventually defaulting on their mortgages, the CDOs not only became less valuable but they also became difficult to value. What were they worth?

The CDOs were like black boxes, few could see inside, or cared to look inside. The home buyers who took out the mortgages in the first place were basically hidden from view. Transparency was gone. There were so many players - homeowners, mortgage companies, debt consolidators, insurance companies, and banks - that it was impossible to determine the quality of the debt.

Because the value of a CDO was so hard to determine, and because many banks and securities firms were either unaware of the financial risk or were in a state of denial, the value of the CDOs on the institution's balance sheet ... statements which summarize the financial health of a company ... was overstated.

Now, the ability of these institutions to borrow money, necessary in their day-to-day operations, was severely limited. Who would loan money to an institution whose balance sheet was not only overstated but whose investments in CDOs was impossible to value?

What had started as an opportunity for people to own their own home, turned into a bubble, which then brought down some of the most respected names on Wall Street, which later became a credit crisis. The complexity of the process contributed to the biggest crisis since 1929.

We Need Information not Data The second lesson is that managers need timely information to manage effectively. Raw data is of little value; in most cases what they do not need is volumes and volumes of data in rows and columns. What they do need is information, useful information in summary form that helps make sense of complex situations.

Under better circumstances it may have been possible for data to have moved upstream as part of the mortgage loan package and become part of the CDO package. Then, the institutions holding these CDOs may have had a better chance of monitoring the quality of the instruments on their balance sheet. However, even if this were the case, falling home prices and an increase in foreclosures would have continued to deteriorate the value of the CDOs.

But the data that could have been used to expose the fragile nature of these CDOs was stored in different locations or not available at all. In any event, it was not possible to bring them together. As a result, decision makers were forced to fly blind and almost every institution, certainly the ones that failed, carried the CDOs on their balance sheets at prices much higher than they were actually worth. Consequently investment banking firms like Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch were overvalued until reality reared its ugly head.

Would it have been possible for better and more up-to-date-information to have softened the blow? That's a difficult question to answer, but the absence of information and the uncertainty expressed time and time again about the vulnerability of the system and the inflated values of the CDOs on balance sheets, certainly suggests that the lack of information contributed to the crisis.

Denial can Bring Catastrophic Results The third lesson is that management cannot afford to be in a state of denial. In 2006, I attended a presentation at a New York investment bank and asked the senior economist at this firm for his views on an inflated housing market that some concluded was about to implode. He assured me ... supporting his argument with compelling data ... that this was an unlikely outcome.

A New York Times article by Joe Nocera on September 16, 2008, suggested that "most of the big firms have been a day late and a dollar short in admitting that their once triple-A rated mortgage-backed securities just weren't worth very much. And one by one, it is killing them." The article continued to explain that Mr. Fuld, the CEO of Lehman Brothers, went to the Korea Development Bank to ask for help in shoring up Lehman's balance sheet. It failed because Mr. Fuld demanded more for Lehman than the Koreans thought it was worth.

Denial was everywhere, from the homebuyers who felt they could afford a $600,000 house on a $75,000 income, to the mortgage originators who looked the other way, to the debt consolidators who put together the CDOs, to the banks who purchased the CDOs and kept them on their balance sheets at unrealistically high prices, and to the insurers who grossly miscalculated the risks they were taking.

Lessons Learned Complexity has increased in most industries, and in September 2008 we learned how important it is to understand the linkages that tie systems together in the financial industry. Organizations and their leaders ignore complexity at their own peril.

Information and its use to support management decision making at the strategic level is more important today than it has ever been. No one would fly a Boeing Dreamliner without information displays in the cockpit.

Denial is not a river in Egypt, it is a fatal error made by pseudo confident leaders.

Why the Financial Logo Design Should Stand Out and Look Even More Impressive

Financial firms find logo financial a necessary element for their business to have a face and to be made known most importantly to their target market. Hence it is important that before deciding for a logo for business, you need to find the factors that can describe what a great logo looks like. If you are a smart businessman and producing a fitting logo for your business matters a lot, you should know this by heart.

If you decide to have an image or symbol that will define your business, make sure it is more than good. In the business industry, it is important for logos for financial business to contain clear, readable letters. This will convey the message of your logo which is to let people know that your financial business exists. Because of this, most accounting and business firms preferred to have formal font styles. They need more clear writing than artistic expression logos for business.

If the design of the logo works in any size, then it is without a doubt that it really is a great design. The financial logo should stand out and look even more impressive in large fronts that can be distinguished by people even from farther distance. If you have business cards to give to clients or customers, it should contain the same business logo in the card as small print of the bigger logos. This is a way of communicating to the most important people in your business so you should always aim for a logo designer to have clearer yet simple logo designs that do not appear complicated.

Another factor that can indicate if the financial logo is impeccable is the color and the versions of black and white. Most of the logo design companies will produce a version or two of your logo image. This is to make you see if the design loses its legibility, message and appeal when undressed with colors. Although black and white is a smart choice for formality, this does not easily captivate attention.

Financial logos are subtle based on the correct proportion which is unconsciously sensed as fairness, loyalty and dependability. If the symmetry looks well and good on the icon or the image of the logo, this should also give the same great look on the letters and words in it. Most frequently, companies would love to have their business identified on the logo financial and the services they offer. One of the most common forms is slogans providing memorable impact to the passersby. In this case, the long lines should be proportion to the small letters in order for it to be legible.

As your financial business reaches the peak of success, you are always given options to redefine your corporate identity as well as logo. Pre-existing business logos can be modified to make it look progressive and upbeat the old designs. When you find this modification of logo financial essential in your business, examine the trends you need to follow and check important guidelines to avoid the mistakes in deciding for a new or in upgrading a pre-existing logo.

Global Trends For the Financial Service Industry

As the economic crisis continues to unfold, the financial service industry faces serious challenges. The crisis is rooted in continuous imbalances, including long periods of low interest rates, rapidly rising asset prices, and massive credit and savings imbalances. The 2007 and 2008 Reports from the World Economic Forum predicted these changes as continuous risk to the market.

Earlier decades of exceptional growth and capitalism at its best have now caused the market to adapt to tighter credit, growing government intervention, slowing pace of globalization, and no economic growth. With increasing regulations in the United States and decreasing availability of credit, the industry faces a significant risk of stunted growth. The global recession is also affecting the financial sector because of capital markets and decreased aggregate demand, according to Max von Bismarck, Director and Head of Investor Industries.

This article will provide leaders, employees and investors in the financial service industry with five unique and timely trends to keep in the forefront of their growth strategies for the next five years. These five key trends will shape the post financial crisis in a holistic and systematic manner.

FIVE KEY TRENDS

GLOBAL BANKING. According to the World Bank, although many banks such as American Express, Citibank and JPMorgan Chase conduct business in multiple countries, they are relatively regional in the United States. In order to grow, the financial industry will have to infiltrate emerging markets. For companies that have a more aggressive growth strategy, the spread to emerging markets such as Africa and Asia presents unparalleled opportunities for profit and increased market share.

IT PLATFORM SHARING. Network World confirms that financial service firms' business strategies must be altered for the new dynamics and intricacies of today's market. Immediate access to information and integration along product lines and geography are a must for future success. With the need to supply information to a global market, firms must decrease cost. One cost effective initiative is the use of platform sharing; like cell phone companies that collaborate with local companies in order to decrease cost and increase access, financial firms can do the same.

E-BANKING. A special report from The Economist sees that with 3.5 billion people with cell phones and an expected 10-20% year over year growth, personal and business banking transactions are conducted through cell phones more and more. Thus, E-banking capability is quickly becoming an increasing requirement in order to compete in the marketplace. E-banking capabilities provide companies with essential flexibility and differentiation in the market through Internet-based service applications.

MOBILE MONEY. The increase of mobile phone usage in emerging markets makes mobile money a safe, low cost initiative for the financial sector. It is an easier way to transfer money to family and friends, money is sent, and payments and withdrawals can be made without ever going to a physical bank or payment center. M-Pesa, an early developer of mobile money, concluded that mobile money "has enormous social and economic benefits."

SELF-SERVICE. Self-service and the customer should be a primary focus for firms in this new financial service world, according to IBM. AppViewXS is a self-service portal firms can purchase, so customers can check the status of their account and gain instant access to available services. Customer questions and concerns are addressed more quickly, states an IBM representative. This technology automates many processes; the result is that staff workload is reduced while representatives operate faster and more efficiently.

Financial service firms need to have sustainable, steady expansion in the emerging markets in order to grow in the future. Deloitte and Touche Research reports that financial service firms have not positioned themselves to capitalize on more geographically dispersed opportunities. More than 93 percent of the executives interviewed for this report acknowledged that their firms "are not operating in a globally integrated fashion."

The same report states that financial firms need to invest away from veteran or mature markets and toward emerging markets because "by 2025, veteran markets will be rivaled by other markets with faster growing economies and increasingly sophisticated financial product appetites." USA based firms can look toward Japanese and African markets for expansion opportunities. Kennedy Consulting analysts believe that the market will rebound from the global financial crisis in 2011, but there will not be any return to the robust levels prior to 2007 until much later in the decade; hopefully, the five key trends in this report will help the leaders, employees and investors in the financial service industry to look toward a robust sound future.

In addition to growth strategies, in the 2002 Journal of Business and Industrial Marketing, Henson and Wilson discuss the extreme changes that have occurred in the financial service industry and how many firms are trying to develop and execute successful strategies based on innovative technology and customers. Aside from the regular ups and downs of the financial world, technology and innovation will always prevail as the win-win for the financial service industry. Because online banking has become the norm for most customers, technology will be very important in these firms' strategies.

With the customer at the center of most trends in financial service firms, creating new values for their current and potential clients beyond current expectations will be a top priority. The need for convenience mixed with technology makes mobile money a great initiative in the emerging as well as the developed markets. Many firms have speed pay, the ability to pay without swiping the card, as part of their credit card services. An embedded chip in the credit card enables payments to be made by putting the card close to the payment processor. Mobile money will be an expansion of payment and money transfers without the need for a card, the need to go to a physical bank, or to use Internet banking. Payments, transfers, deposits and withdrawals can be made with a cell phone.

The World Bank concurs that innovative technology and an increase in e-business strategies will lead to much lower costs and greater competition in financial services. Internet and related technologies, the World Bank affirms, are more than just new delivery channels; they are an inexpensive, different, and very effective way to provide the same services. Since financial service firms must grow organically, build customer loyalty, and accommodate the customers' expanding needs for services and convenience, partnerships with new technology businesses will allow them to lower their expenses and be competitive.

Established firms such as Amex, Citibank, and others can partner with groups such as the wired tech savvy Google Alumni who are not averse to risk and who own fledgling technology businesses that are reshaping the industry with a new wave of innovative products, write Spencer Ante and Kimberly Weisul of Business Week. Mobile Money Ventures is one such fledgling company that is a provider on the forefront of alternative financial service products. Small companies such as these are able to provide well-known financial firms the wherewithal to open in emerging markets where there is a need for cooperation with other firms in order to attain then obtain the local customer base.

Today's competition is fueled not just by profitable customers, but also by the firms that are the most efficient and cost effective. Procedural and cultural clash will result from expanding into unknown markets as seen by the history of Citibank in Asia Minor. But in the long run, tighter regulations, new technology and improved business processes will cause expanding in emerging markets not only to change the demographics of the clients (both geographically and core clients), but also to better the global economy and the future of the financial services industry. Keeping the previous trends at the forefront of managers' strategic plans, financial firms will rebound bigger and better than ever.

How You Can Forge Your New Life Out Of The Financial Meltdown

The financial crisis is having a humanizing effect. The shortage of money - actual or feared - is causing people to look for a new life focus. Instead of looking outwardly at a seemingly chaotic world that shouts gloom and doom from the rooftops, people are turning their search inwards. "Who am I really?" "What drives me?" "What do I really want out of life?"

If that picture fits you, let's look at this person within to whom you are turning. It's the person who is looking out on the world through your eyes. The real you, the authentic self, much of whom is likely to have been suppressed for years, perhaps since childhood. The strong link between life and money as the key to success has caused many of us to stray from being the person we wanted to be to being somebody we felt others expected us to be. It paid the bills and met your work and family responsibilities. But for many of us, there remains within us the unfulfilled pangs of a deeper emotional hunger.

If your inner self seems like a stranger, here's a brief re-introduction.

Your authentic self:

o Is unique in human history -no-one else is quite the same, nor has there been since the beginning of humanity, or in the future.

o Has a unique set of skills, abilities and talents. Some you know well, some you haven't used for years, and some you don't yet even know you have.

o Has come through a unique set of lifetime experiences, giving you your own perspective on everything.

o The person who makes all your important decisions. Your authentic self is driven by the heart (emotions) more than the head (logic). A wise person once told me: in making any important life-changing decisions, listen to your heart and your head - just don't let your head win!

o Came into this world with a potential unrelated to money.

Typically, your first five years were probably the only time your authentic self reigned supreme. You lived for the moment and felt there was nothing you couldn't do, or at least try. No cares about mortgages, job, or education. But you learned much - and fast! In just five years, from birth to starting school, you learned most of your basic life skills.

There could be a message for you in that alone.

So what happened?

Life started to be increasingly influenced by external factors over which you had little or no control. The financial crisis is a current powerful example of this. In the game of life, so much of your script has been written by others, starting with your parents, usually with the best of intentions. Then there were your teachers, peers, older people 'who knew better', work bosses, your partner and, in time, even your offspring.

You found yourself being sent off in directions not of your choosing, taught that success required you to focus on being a person who can make lots of money, goes to the right school, meets the right people, learns the right things and takes the right jobs. If that is the authentic you, count yourself among the lucky few. For most of us it requires putting the authentic self to one side for the time being at least.

Eventually you decided it's less complicated to conform than to rebel. You succumbed to putting aside 'for later on' your natural desires, dreams, directions, visions and, even more sadly, your passions. After all, you had to meet numerous very real responsibilities at home and at work. Many of these will have brought satisfaction, For some, however, life became 'a repetition of trivial maintenance duties'.

It's Time to Attack

You may not be able to control the external influences on your life, but you can control how you respond. We all face major life crises which cause us to stop and think about our lives. These can include loss of a partner through death or divorce, being made redundant, surviving a life-threatening illness, or facing the prospect of enforced retirement. These shocks to the system can be devastating. But they're also opportunities to re-assert who you are and re-assess what you want from life.

The current financial crisis is proving to be a significant such shock/opportunity. You can choose between

o battening down the hatches and waiting for the storm to pass, or

o going on the attack and forging a new direction in your life.

You have a natural armoury of weapons with which to launch your attack. Some of the more potent ones might have been suppressed, but not dismantled. They lie dormant, awaiting your signal to be launched. When fired, the impact can be life-changing, positively rocketing your self esteem, self confidence and sense of self worth to unchartered heights, triggering a ripple effect through everything you do.

When you lose yourself in an interest you love, you find yourself. A passionate interest can absorb your whole being, temporarily losing your sense of time and place (often called 'a state of flow'. Your authentic self leaps into life.

I see a passionate interest as :

o deeply enjoyable

o positive, triggering positive thinking

o part of your natural fabric, an expression of your natural-born skills, abilities and talents

o creatively expressing all or any of your senses - visually, intellectually, manually, physically, mentally, or spiritually. Mind, body and spirit come together in harmony.

o sparking new and lateral thinking, enthusiasm and commitment to goals. The spark can electrify people around you.

Perhaps a passionate interest's greatest benefit is the natural new energy it generates:

o An emotional energy that embraces physical, mental and spiritual energy

o an unlimited, natural, freely available and readily-obtainable source of energy

o It enables you to perform at your peak, to grow and to blossom to your natural potential

o sustains you, to survive and thrive in the 21st century lifestyle of unrelenting stress.

You have the power to decide whether your reaction to the financial crisis is to batten down the hatches and defend your position, or to go on the attack. The authentic self which you were born to be has an astounding array of weaponry to unleash on yourself, your outlook on life, your plans and your actions.

You may not be able to control what's happening to your financial investments. You can, however, control the investment in your authentic self. You can maximize your natural abilities and seize the opportunity to re-discover the passions within that enable you to become the person you were born to be.

Fun - Adventure Along the Pony Express Trail

The Pony Express, which some say started as an expensive publicity stunt by the freighting firm Russell, Majors & Waddell to snag a lucrative government mail contract, turned into an 18-month adventure that still captures the imagination of western-history lovers. For more than 132 years, the lore of the Pony Express has endured. Almost yearly, people ride all or parts of the trail on horseback. From its starting point in St. Joseph, Missouri, to its terminus in Sacramento, California, the Express' 1,839 miles traversed the "central route." Transportation magnates William H. Russell, Alexander Majors and William Waddell were betting on this route to triumph over the more popular but longer southern route as the nation's choice of mail and passenger service between the Mississippi and California.

The First Administrative Division of the Pony Express route stretched from St. Joseph to the Kearny Station, near present-day Kearney, Nebraska. (Yes, the name of the site and the nearby fort were spelled differently than the town in Nebraska.) With some good maps, a reliable vehicle, and a little effort, you can ride that section of the route and spot site markers and enjoy some excellent museums and visitors centers to learn more about the Pony Express along the way. The 275-300 mile trip can be done in a long day, though two and better even three days allow time for you to examine artifacts and displays which remain of this adventuresome heritage. The trip also offers the chance to glimpse something of the heritage of the Plains states from the mid-19th century to the present.

There were two kinds of stations on the Pony Express route: "swing," or relay stations and home stations. At the swing stations, riders changed horses; at the home stations, riders traded their 50-75 miles in the saddle for a chance to bunk overnight until they were up again to relieve a rider coming from the opposite direction. In some cases, riders earned fame and their reputations when Indian trouble, or the violence of the weather stopped their relief from coming through and they had to double up and ride more than their alloted miles.

According to historians Merrill J. Mattes and Paul Henderson, in their book "The Pony Express From St. Joseph to Fort Laramie," there were 24 stations in the St. Joseph-Fort Kearny division. This does not include Fort Kearny. Mattes and Henderson say that the fort itself didn't have a station proper, although there was a stop 40 rods west of the fort (about 220 yards) where the Holliday Stage Lines had a shack at which Pony Express riders may have stopped irregularly to pick up military and civilian mail.

My wife and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary "adventuring" along the First Administrative Division of the historic trail, tracking down monuments and station remains along the way, meeting the people, and having the perfect anniversary celebration for two enthusiasts of the history of the Old West. We chose to limit our travels to the First Division only because we were limited on time and financial resources -- and because that first division is located relatively near our home.

A number of years have gone by since our trip (we did it in 1992), but the people and artifacts of this colorful trail are still there and still very worth seeing. This is the first of several articles I will be writing to share our impressions and some of the things we learned about this brief, romantic period in the life and history of the Old West as we took to the trail. I hope you'll ride along with us!

The American Express SimplyCashSM Business Card Reviewed

Being in business can create some tight financial spots from time to time, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. The American Express SimplyCashSM Business Card helps cardholders appreciate their standing in both situations while opening up a network of additional benefits also.

What Perks Are Offered to the Cardholder?

Well, the American Express SimplyCashSM Business Card is a cash back rewards card after all, so let's look at the rewards system first. This credit card is designed to turn everyday business expenditures in to a bottom line enhancing proposition with cash back automatically credited to the statement each month.

From 5% back on the purchases made by businesses most - office supplies, gasoline, and wireless services - to 1% cash back rewards on nearly all other purchases, the American Express SimplyCashSM Business Card is a very viable business card choice for those wanting to get the most value possible out of each and every purchase.

In addition to the cash rebate rewards given, the American Express SimplyCashSM Business Card also extends a plethora of additional benefits to the cardholder, including but not limited to automatic discounts with shipping services, airlines, hotels, and more. Other business credit cards might offer many of these same features, but it is hard to find one that delivers this many perks in one concise package.

Taking a Good Look at the Interest Rate

For a card intended for business use, the interest rate is incredibly important. After all, there's no faster way to wipe out profits than by paying excessive finance charges on past purchases or transfers.

Fortunately, the American Express SimplyCashSM Business Card delivers again with an initial 12 months of 0% interest on purchases. Making interest free payments on a major business purchase couldn't be made easier, plus rewards are earned all at the same time. After the first year, the regular APR that sets in is still by all means very affordable according to credit card industry standards.

Also worth noting, the American Express SimplyCashSM Business Card does not charge an annual fee. This is to be expected from the best credit cards, but sometimes when the benefits and perks are bountiful, the annual fee goes right up along with the perks offered.

How Does The Card Rate Overall?

Without any hesitation, the American Express SimplyCashSM Business Card is recommended with a seal of approval for its industry leading rewards program, a very competitive interest rate, and the other valuable perks it shares. If there is any downfall at all, it would be that the credit card is only available to those with excellent credit. But most businesses shouldn't have too much trouble in that regard.

Is the American Express Blue Card For You?

American Express may have been identified with high end credit card products that are more suited to the financial capability of the wealthy. In its bid to make the company cater to every consumer in the social strata, American Express has launched the American Express Blue Card for those who do not want to maintain expensive credit cards.

With the American Express Blue Card, credit card users can now look forward to having more spending options but without the annual payment that comes with a regular credit card. Plus they get to benefit from the cash back features of the Blue credit card.

The young segment of the population will enjoy the flexibility as well as the rewards and the convenience offered by the American Express Sky Blue credit cards. While other credit cards offer free air miles for credit card users, the Sky Blue card allow its users to apply the points they get from credit card purchases to any expenses related to travel including hotel accommodations, car rental payments, and even travel tickets.

Some people wonder why American Express put sop much emphasis on travel perks in relation to their credit cards. This may be so because company used to be very active in the travel industry business and so it knows what its market requires in terms of travel perks.

Card members of Sky Blue credit card can benefit from the various insurance benefits offered by American Express in relation to travel accident and lost baggage.

The rewards system of the Blue card also makes it irresistible to potential users because every dollar spent by the client using the Blue credit card earns a point. The purchase can be anything from gas, shopping or dinner. The important fact is that the Blue card was used and every dollar spend earns a point for the user.

Some people avoid using credit cards because of the hassle and delay of having the establishment swipe the card. The American Express Blue however allows users to enter into transactions with establishments through a reader.

Blue card users also get protection against fraudulent transactions as a result of the unauthorized use of the credit card. Users can also return their purchases within ninety days and if this is no longer possible then the company refunds the user. Eligible users also get protection from damaged or stolen items within 90 days.

While the American Express Blue credit card may seem to have all the qualities of a perfect card, users should watch out for the charges imposed for cards with unpaid balance during the end of each month. Some cards use an annual percentage rate scheme in computing additional charges for outstanding balance but the Blue card uses a daily rate. There may be a grace period of twenty days but late payments can be very costly.

Most credit cards may differ in their rates and benefits making some cards a lot better than others. However, credit card consumers should remember that companies provide credit card services for profit. Credit card companies are basically in this for business and not for charity.

Users should not expect these companies from pouring in huge capital and then operate their businesses like charity. It follows then that every credit card user should look at all the hidden charges which the companies imposed not only for late payments but also for selected purchases.

The general rule really is to choose a credit card company that will suit the preferences and purchasing pattern of a person. When he has done that then he should put to heart all the important terms of the credit card company like surcharges, percentage, policies on late payments and other details.

Details of the American Express Gold Card Application

The American Express Gold Card is a charge card for those who have good credit and can afford to pay the balance in full each month in order to avoid accumulating debt as often become the case with high balance and high interest rates. In addition, though the payment structure of the charge card is different from other unsecured credit cards, it has similar benefits and services.

The annual fee for the American Express Gold Card is $90 with an additional $35 for additional cardholders. For the first year, the primary cardholder fee is waived. The fee for cash advances is 3% with a minimum of $5 for Express Cash transactions.

For no additional fee, cardholders have access to the Membership Rewards Options program, which allows members the opportunity to earn points they can redeem for various products and services. Points are earned at the rate of one point per dollar with bonus points of two points per dollar for purchases at supermarkets, gas stations, drug stores, U.S. Postal Service, or when paying wireless phone bills. They have no expiration date or annual maximum, and the cardholder earns a bonus of 5,000 points on the first purchase.

Although the card has a high annual fee, those who are able to take advantage of all of the benefits of American Express membership may not be concerned with this.

Some of the benefits a cardholder can expect to receive from the American Express Gold Card include the following:

o Online access to account information

o Free shipping and handling from selected retailers and merchants

o Financial statements at year's end

o Price protection services

o Return protection

o No cardholder liability for unauthorized Internet transactions

o Extended warranty for purchases

o Protection for purchases

o Medical and legal referral services

o Planning assistance for trips

o Emergency assistance and travel-related services

o Insurance for lost luggage

o Emergency check-in service

o Roadside assistance

o Guarantee of hotel and motel reservations

o Insurance for car rental

o Emergency replacement of card

o Travel accident insurance up to $100,000

Details Of The American Express Green Card Application

The American Express Green card is a rewards card that is excellent for those with good credit who are financially able to pay the full balance each month in order to avoid accumulating credit card debt. There is no pre-set spending limit on the card, but approvals are made based on credit history, personal resources, and account history.

At no additional fee, cardholders can participate in the Membership Rewards Options program where they can earn points that can be redeemed for products and services. The card earns a cardholder one point per dollar spent except for supermarkets, drugstores, the U.S. Postal Service, and when paying wireless telephone bills when two points per dollar is earned. Points are transferable into any one of eleven frequent flyer programs, and a first time purchase bonus of 5,000 points is awarded.

The annual fee for the American Express Green Card is $65 and $30 for each additional card, but the fee for the primary card is waived for the first year. There is a 3% cash advance fee with a minimum charge of $5 for Express Cash transactions. Those who will benefit most from the use of the American Express Green card are those who travel frequently and can take advantage of the rewards program by combing frequent flyer miles with other earned points.

Benefits that a member can expect to derive from the use of the card include the following:

o Online access to account information

o No liability to the cardholder for unauthorized online transactions

o Purchase protection and extended warranty for purchases

o Return protection

o Emergency assistance a travel-related services

o Medical and legal referral services

o Assistance with trip planning

o Insurance for lost luggage

o Guaranteed reservations for hotels and motels

o Emergency check-in service o Roadside assistance

o Insurance for car rental

o Travel accident insurance up to $100,000

o Emergency card replacement

o Financial statement at year's end

American Express - A Unique Type Of Credit Card

American Express, or AMEX, is one of the most recognisable names in the financial world. What many customers who have MasterCard or Visa credit cards in their wallet are interested in, is what is the difference between these two companies and American Express. Well the difference is quite simple. MasterCard and Visa are both simply payment methods. They allow locations to accept payment using their system. They do not however, issue any credit cards of their own. For this they rely on their partnerships with thousands of banks worldwide who will issue credit cards, provide the credit necessary, and charge clients interest and give them rewards. None of your credit card bill goes to Visa or MasterCard. It all goes to the bank that provided the card. This bank also sets your interest rate, gives you rewards, offers you zero per cent balance transfers, the works. Visa and MasterCard make their money by charging the retailer a fee for using their payment system, and also sometimes by charging your bank for issuing the card. None of this effects you directly however. American Express is a very different arrangement. Not only do they have their own payment system, but they also issue their cards directly to customers. So they are running the whole show. If a card says American Express on it, you know instantly who issued it, what payments system it utilises and everything else about the card. While Visa and MasterCard are probably far more prevalent payment methods worldwide, American Express is rapidly expanding its network. Both Visa and MasterCard are accepted at over twenty million locations worldwide and these are spread around over one hundred and fifty countries. This makes them truly global payment methods. American Express still lacks this degree of saturation. There are places in the world where Visa and MasterCard are accepted widely but American Express is more difficult to use. However, American Express has its own advantages, particularly for customers in Europe and North America. In these countries the card is accepted widely. The company also offers very attractive credit cards. They have good rates, good reward schemes and good customer service. If you want a card guaranteed to give you a high standard of service, and that still carries a little bit of extra exclusivity now that Visa and MasterCard are so prevalent, then American Express, or AMEX, is a good safe choice.