The Brancatelli File By Joe Brancatelli
Give Me the Simple Life
Thursday, December 7, 2017 -- A cottage small is all I've ever been after, but I became a business traveler so my life is all high roads, low roads, frettin' and grievin' and messing around with strife.

Still, just as I like my music Ella, I try to keep my life as simple as business travel allows. One way I do it is to keep stock of my stock near the end of the year and see what I can jettison.

Here's what I'm thinking to keep my life corny and seedy.

I'm concerned about the value of American Express Membership Rewards points. As Delta Air Lines continues to devalue, SkyMiles aren't even SkyPesos (Copyright © Gary Leff) anymore. They're more like SkyZimbabweDollars. Since I yearn for the simple life, I'm not big on digging hard and deep into the charts of Amex's other points-transfer partners in search of award diamonds. So I've basically stopped charging to my Amex cards.

That said, I find American Express Platinum to be the ultimate in simplicity: It offers more of the best business travel perks than any other card in the market. I won't put a dime of spending on it, but I happily pay the $550 annual fee for the card's unsurpassed bundle of useful amenities:
      Gold status in three hotel programs: Hilton Honors and Starwood Preferred Guest and, thanks to matching privileges, Marriott Rewards. It's icing on the cake that Marriott this week announced it will continue offering cards with Amex and Chase. That seems to ensure that Amex Platinum will have this triple play for the foreseeable future. (I also get occasional use from the proprietary Fine Hotels and Resorts plan.)
      Global airport club access thanks to complimentary Priority Pass membership, free admittance to Amex Centurion Lounges and free entry to Delta SkyClubs when flying Delta.
      Emerald Executive status from National Car as well as perks from Hertz and Avis.
      $200 annual credit for airline fees, $200 in Uber credits each year and free use of Boingo hotspots.

THE SIMPLE PHONE PLAN, an international SIM card and GSM phone provider that long offered discounts to JoeSentMe members, has gone where so many early and creative Internet firms go. The good news:, Telestial's successor, offers a 40 percent discount to all comers with the promo code 1SIM40.

That said, I probably won't pursue a new discount for members because time seems to have passed by international SIM card specialists. Even the rapacious AT&T and Verizon now have somewhat competitive international calling and data plans. Basically, you give them $10 a day when you travel overseas and they let you draw from your existing domestic plan's allotments.

I think both of those plans are rips because I've been with T-Mobile forever and its plans are much simpler and cheaper: International data (albeit 2G) is free. International texts are free. WiFi usage is free, which means you can drive your high-speed data free, too. Tethering your phone as a computer modem is free. Incoming calls are free. Calls back to the U.S. are mostly 20 cents a minute. Best of all, I don't have to worry about shutting off my phone's radio to avoid a $10 daily nick when apps, which don't care what country you're in, decide to update.

It's a small victory that I finally convinced Ralph Raffio to get Global Entry for Customs and Immigration bypass. And Global Entry, of course, gives you the Known Traveler Number you need to play in TSA PreCheck, the TSA's security bypass program. Raffio is a new-to-the-game leisure traveler. I almost understand his lag in getting credentialed. What's your excuse? The insanity of post-9/11 federal agencies really is simplified if you have Global Entry and PreCheck. No excuses. Get it. As Raffio himself admitted, it's easy-peasy. And your Amex Platinum or other elite credit card will cover the $100 fee.

I get it. We're either Mac or Windows. Unless the aforementioned Feds drove you to burner technology during this year's craziness. It drove me to Chromebook and I don't regret it. Chromebooks are cheap and disposable and they work well. In other words, they are simple. If only I could make peace with that damned two-finger "right click" thing. So far, I haven't been able to do it and I have to travel with a portable mouse. So complicated ...

Business travelers constantly aim to shave inches and weight off our on-the-road load, so we've enthusiastically embraced cloud storage. Dropbox is fine, of course. So's OneDrive from Microsoft. But Google Drive offers the most free storage (15 gigabytes) and free is simple. It also seamlessly integrates with Chrome, Google's browser, and Android operating systems. I like seamless integration. It's, um, simple.

This column is Copyright 2017 by Joe Brancatelli. is Copyright 2017 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.