The man who's made paper clips count at American Express

As efficiency becomes a priority, company procurement managers have their work cut out for them, writes Peter Koenig

Is there safety in numbers?

IF THERE is one thing the accountancy profession is agreed on, it is that medium-sized firms face a tricky future. Caught between the overwhelming power of the Big Five international firms and the small niche practices, they are busy jostling for position just to survive.

Money: Sun, sea and exploitation

Most of us are still paying too much for holiday cover despite new laws that should make it cheaper, writes Stephen Pritchard

The very VIP lounge, please

We're all middle class - but some of us are more middle class than others. HESTER LACEY uncovers the new elite

Obituary: Adolfo Bioy Casares

THE WRITER Adolfo Bioy Casares will perhaps be known best outside of Argentina as the friend and co-writer of Jorge Luis Borges, a friendship that began in 1935 and lasted a lifetime.

Your last chance to eat out and save a fortune

For the same price as a copy of The Independent - 45p - we are offering you the chance to treat a friend to a meal, and then save 25 per cent every time you eat in selected restaurants.

Money: The card that's fit for a king

Sudden craving for two dozen hamburgers? A new Cadillac? A charge - not credit - card is for you.

Restaurant offer: Dine out at Britain's finest restaurants and pay just 45p for your partner

Collect four tokens to take advantage of this fabulous opportunity - then enjoy meals at 25 per cent off

The knack How to get an upgrade

"Airlines look after their best customers first, so it helps if you're a frequent flyer. If you are, you'll probably be a member of a loyalty programme, which increases your chances further. You'll also be a valued customer to your travel agent, and it's in their interests to do favours for you. Ask them to approach the airline and make a case: `This customer is doing a lot of travelling on this route over the next few months, he's trying to finalise his choice of airline, and he'd like to sample your premium product.' Every booking has a history in the computer, and it's very important to get the upgrade message put into the system before you fly. Entries such as `upgrade subject to space' will be seen by the check-in agent who will then have more authority. The only sure way to get an upgrade is to pay with a gold or platinum American Express card - they have a programme which guarantees an upgrade, although usually from business to first class.

Personal Finance: Cards splash out on big spenders

GONE are the days when you thought yourself lucky if the bank kindly offered you a credit card for pounds 12 a year. The new Alliance & Leicester Gold MoneyBack card launches tomorrow and A&L pays you to use it. The bank is offering between 50p and pounds 4 cash back (depending on where you spend the money) for every pounds 100 you spend. A&L is hoping to attract plenty of affluent customers (earning pounds 20,000 or more per year) who plan to hit the January sales using their new cards.

Cover before you leap

Adequate medical and legal insurance are vital for winter sports, says Tim Collison

Personal Finance: Cash points - Amex portfolios

American Express is launching a choice of five investment portfolios, graded according to the amount of risk involved and aimed at private investors in Europe and the UK. Next month investors in France, Germany and Italy will be offered investments quoted in euros. From next April UK investors will be offered an identical range quoted in sterling, which will qualify for inclusion in tax-exempt Individual Savings Accounts.

Great! Another pair of socks...

Giving Christmas presents can be stressful. But receiving them is even worse.

Worth their weight in gold?

IN THE mid 1960s, American Express and Diners Club imported their charge cards from the US, writes Tony Lyons. What makes them different to a credit card is that you have to pay off the charge card in full every month.

Golf: Victims of the new world order

Golf's fast-changing landscape is leaving Europe's pros in the rough.
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The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
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Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
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newsFidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
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Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
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Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
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'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
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Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
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Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
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Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced