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Ryan Smith

Content Contributor

50 Published Articles

About Ryan Smith

Ryan grew up in Ohio but has lived in half a dozen states and multiple continents before recently returning to the U.S. and settling in southern California. After someone at his hostel in China said “I flew here for free using points,” Ryan was hooked. In December of 2023, he completed his goal of visiting every country in the world and now plans to revisit some of his favorites.

Ryan has been around points and miles for several years and has published content at Miles to Memories, AwardWallet, CNBC Select, USA Today Blueprint, Tripadvisor, The Points Guy, and Forbes Advisor. He also holds Brazilian citizenship and speaks fluent Portuguese.

His wife joins him on many of his trips, and they enjoy snowboarding, scuba diving, seeing animals in the wild, and hunting for vegan tiramisu. When not traveling, Ryan is probably answering questions from his family about how he travels so much and whether this points & miles stuff is illegal.

You can follow Ryan on Twitter.

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Countries Visited

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U.S. States Visited

Hilton Honors Diamond, Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite, World of Hyatt Globalist

None

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Never flown first class — but that will change in July.

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American Express Membership Rewards

The Platinum Card® from American ExpressAmerican Express® Gold Card, and whatever new card has minimum spending requirements to meet.

Ryan's Latest Articles

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How To Get Off the Beaten Path Using Points and Miles

How To Get Off the Beaten Path Using Points and Miles

The beauty of travel is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. You don’t have to go where everyone else is going. Unfortunately, going where everyone else is going is much simpler. There’s a plethora of advice on how to use…

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Is Baggage Insurance Worth It in 2024? [Types, Coverage, Plans]

Is Baggage Insurance Worth It in 2024? [Types, Coverage, Plans]

There’s no worse way to start a vacation than being the last person standing at the baggage claim carousel when it shuts off, and it’s clear your checked luggage didn’t arrive. On top of the annoyance, you now have the…

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For the Frequent Traveler: The 11 Best Annual Travel Insurance Policies

For the Frequent Traveler: The 11 Best Annual Travel Insurance Policies

If you take multiple trips every year, insuring each one can be a hassle. There are forms to fill out, comparison shopping over and over again, and then remembering the policy documents for each specific trip. And then there’s the…

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Medjet Travel Insurance Review — Is It Worth It?

Medjet Travel Insurance Review — Is It Worth It?

Sometimes, things go wrong during a vacation: The airline loses your luggage. Or your plane is late, causing you to miss your cruise ship’s departure. Or your child gets sick and needs to visit a hospital in a country where…

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I’ve Been to Every Country in the World – Here Are My 10 Favorites

I’ve Been to Every Country in the World – Here Are My 10 Favorites

I’ve traveled to … a lot of places. That seems like a good way to put it. I recently completed my goal of visiting every country in the world. As I got close to this goal, I was repeatedly asked…

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TravelSafe Travel Insurance Review — Is It Worth It?

TravelSafe Travel Insurance Review — Is It Worth It?

With every trip, there’s a chance something could go wrong. Your first flight could be delayed, causing you to miss a connection. You could get sick or injured. Maybe your luggage doesn’t show up at your destination. For any of…

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Sunscape Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa [In-Depth All-Inclusive Review]

Sunscape Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa [In-Depth All-Inclusive Review]

There’s a saying that “you get what you pay for.” In many ways, we got what we paid for when my wife and I spent 3 nights at one of the cheapest all-inclusive resorts in Mexico. The Sunscape Puerto Vallarta…

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United Airlines Boeing 787-10 Polaris Business Class Review [HND to LAX]

United Airlines Boeing 787-10 Polaris Business Class Review [HND to LAX]

Airline: United AirlinesAircraft: Boeing B787-10Flight #: UA38Route: Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)Date: October 10, 2023Duration: 10 hours, 10 minutesCabin and Layout: Polaris business class; 44 seats in a 1-2-1 configurationSeat: 9D (aisle)Cost: $1,104 (including an…

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ANA Boeing 787-8 Business Class Review [CGK to HND]

ANA Boeing 787-8 Business Class Review [CGK to HND]

Airline: All Nippon Airways (ANA)Aircraft: Boeing 787-8Flight #: NH872Route: Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta (CGK) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND)Date: October 10, 2023Duration: 7 hours, 10 minutesCabin and Layout: ANA business class; 42 seats in a 1-2-1 configurationSeat: 7D (aisle)Cost: $1,104 (including…

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Alila SCBD Jakarta in Indonesia [In-Depth Hyatt Hotel Review]

Alila SCBD Jakarta in Indonesia [In-Depth Hyatt Hotel Review]

My wife and I recently spent a night at the Alila SCBD Jakarta in Indonesia, and that was simply not enough. We only needed a hotel for a night before flying home from Jakarta, and we had no idea this…

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Concordia Lounge at Ngurah Rai International Airport’s Domestic Terminal in Bali [Review]

Concordia Lounge at Ngurah Rai International Airport’s Domestic Terminal in Bali [Review]

Despite multiple trips in and out of Bali over the years, I’d never been in the domestic terminal at Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS) in Bali. On a recent trip, my wife and I were headed from Bali to Jakarta…

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Alila Manggis in East Bali [In-Depth World of Hyatt Hotel Review]

Alila Manggis in East Bali [In-Depth World of Hyatt Hotel Review]

If you’re like me, you typically associate wellness retreats or holistic hotels with high price tags. And that definitely applies when I hear “Alila,” as many of these World of Hyatt-participating properties can charge hefty sums. There are only 4…

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The Serangoon House, Singapore, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel [In-Depth Review]

The Serangoon House, Singapore, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel [In-Depth Review]

Singapore can be an expensive place to visit, and hotels in Singapore prove this point. You’ll find a wealth of options for high-priced lodging, but there are few options for using low-value free night awards obtained from loyalty programs or…

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ANA Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Class Review [LAX to NRT]

ANA Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Class Review [LAX to NRT]

Airline: All Nippon Airways (ANA)Aircraft: Boeing 787-9Flight #: NH5Route: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Narita International Airport (NRT)Date: October 1, 2023Duration: 11 hours, 55 minutesCabin and Layout: Premium economy; 21 seats in a 2-3-2 configurationSeats: 14D (aisle) and 16G (aisle)Cost: 65,000 United MileagePlus miles + $5.60 (including…

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Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort [In-Depth Hotel Review]

Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort [In-Depth Hotel Review]

If you’re looking for a classic resort stay along the beach, this is it. The Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort has multiple restaurants, several pools, endless activities, entertainment for kids, good food, meetings, and weddings galore, and — my…

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7 Stars Inn Pohnpei: What It’s Like Staying at One of the Few Hotels on the Island

7 Stars Inn Pohnpei: What It’s Like Staying at One of the Few Hotels on the Island

Whether you’re interested in World War II history, a laid-back island life, visiting every country in the world, or wound up in Pohnpei (an island in the Federated States of Micronesia) from the famous United Island Hopper flight, you’ll quickly…

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What It’s Like Flying Nauru Airlines [September 2023 Review]

What It’s Like Flying Nauru Airlines [September 2023 Review]

I recently flew on Nauru Airlines, the flag carrier of its namesake country. It’s a small island in the Pacific Ocean, roughly 1,380 miles northwest of Fiji. Nauru International Airport (INU) in Yaren is the island’s sole airport, and no…

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United Airlines Boeing 737-800 Island Hopper Economy Class Review [HNL to PNI]

United Airlines Boeing 737-800 Island Hopper Economy Class Review [HNL to PNI]

Airline: United AirlinesAircraft: Boeing B737-800Flight #: UA132Route: Honolulu (HNL) to Pohnpei (PNI) in MicronesiaDate: September 6, 2023Duration: 9hr 50minCabin and Layout: Economy; 150 seats in a 3-3 configurationSeat: 14A (window)Cost: 35,000 miles + $11.20 One of the most famous routes…

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LuxxLounge at Frankfurt International Airport [Review]

LuxxLounge at Frankfurt International Airport [Review]

I’m not a big fan of landside lounges, but I was willing to change my mind during a visit to Germany this summer. Did Frankfurt’s LuxxLounge blow me away enough to give lounges before security another shot? The LuxxLounge was…

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What It Was Like Staying at the Cheapest Hotel by Honolulu Airport: Pacific Marina Inn

What It Was Like Staying at the Cheapest Hotel by Honolulu Airport: Pacific Marina Inn

I recently had a 12-hour layover in Honolulu, arriving from Los Angeles and transiting to United’s famed Island Hopper service the next morning. That layover from 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. was enough time that I wanted to go out…

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IGA Lounge in Istanbul Airport’s International Terminal [Review]

IGA Lounge in Istanbul Airport’s International Terminal [Review]

The IGA Lounge in the international terminal at Istanbul Airport (IST) has been busy every time I’ve visited, likely because it’s one of the few lounges accessible by those not flying in premium cabins with Turkish Airlines or its Star…

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Find out about other members of the team

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Alex Miller

Founder & CEO

Founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, Alex is a leader in the industry and has earned and redeemed millions of points and miles. He frequently discusses the award travel industry with CNBC, Fox Business, The New York Times, and more.

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Andrew Kunesh

Former Content Contributor

Andrew was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs and now splits his time between Chicago and New York City.

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Brandon Brunner

Former Content Contributor

Brandon was born and raised in California and really didn’t travel much growing up, even outside of his own state. While attending college, he was constantly looking to find the cheapest fares to any destination abroad, and quickly learned about the motto- “Chase the fare, not the destination”. Luckily, his first international flight was to Costa Rica (under $300 roundtrip) where that “Pura Vida” lifestyle (and Imperials) hit him hard, and he knew he had to see more.

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Brian Graham

Former Content Contributor

Brian’s first ever airplane ride was in a private turbo-prop jet. He was merely an intern boy trying to make a good impression, but it turns out the plane made an impression on him.

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Carissa Rawson

Senior Content Contributor

Carissa served in the U.S. Air Force where she developed her love for travel and new cultures. She started her own blog and eventually joined The Points Guy. Since then, she’s contributed to Business Insider, Forbes, and more.

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Caroline Lupini

Former Content Contributor

Caroline Lupini always enjoyed traveling, but it became her goal to do as much as possible after a 3-week trip around Europe in 2011. In March 2014, Caroline left her job and embarked on nearly full-time travels. 

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Charlie Page

Former Content Contributor

Charlie is a Senior First Officer and has been an airline pilot for nearly 15 years. He currently flies long-haul on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner after 10 years buzzing around Europe on the A320. He got into travel and aviation from an early age, fortunate enough to be taken on some great family holidays.

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Cherag Dubash

Content Contributor

Cherag was born in a family associated with aviation and was hooked on to planes since the age of 3, the time he undertook his first flight on an Airbus A310 from Mumbai to Dubai.

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Chris Hassan

Social Media & Brand Manager

Chris holds a B.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management and managed social media for all Marriott properties in South America, making him a perfect fit for UP and its social media channels. He has a passion for making content catered toward family travelers.

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Christine Krzyszton

Senior Finance Contributor

Christine ran her own business developing and managing insurance and financial services. This stoked a passion for points and miles and she now has over 2 dozen credit cards and creates in-depth, detailed content for UP.

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Christy Rodriguez

Travel & Finance Content Contributor

After having “non-rev” privileges with Southwest Airlines, Christy dove into the world of points and miles so she could continue traveling for free. Her other passion is personal finance, and is a certified CPA.

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David Slotnick

Former Content Contributor

Born and raised in New York, David still remembers his first flight when he was only four years old: a U.S. Airways trip from New York-La Guardia to Palm Beach, Florida. He formed his love of travel around that and other family vacations, including to England at age eight and Namibia when he was 13. During college, a four-country trip around Europe with a friend cemented his passion for seeing the world.

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Erin Miller

Content Contributor

An experienced points hacker, Erin is Alex’s partner-in-crime and contributes to Upgraded Points with in-depth guides and relationship management. Erin’s work has been cited in multiple major publications.

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Greg Stone

Content Contributor

Greg got bitten by the travel bug at a young age while traveling with his Dad on business trips to Asia. He took over the family business in 2012 and uses it to maximize his loyalty points earning. His obsession with earning and burning loyalty rewards points allows him to travel over 100 days every year.

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James Larounis

Senior Content Contributor

James (Jamie) started The Forward Cabin blog to educate readers about points, miles, and loyalty programs. He’s spoken at Princeton University and The New York Times Travel Show and has been quoted in dozens of travel publications.

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Jeff Brownson

Former Content Contributor

Since discovering miles and points in 2010, Jeff has traveled to over 35 countries, flying in first class, business class, and sometimes even in coach. Whether he’s staying in a hostel dorm, or in a luxury suite at a 5 star hotel, Jeff is constantly looking for the best deal to make travel as close to free as possible.

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Jessica Merritt

Editor & Content Contributor

A long-time points and miles student, Jessica is the former Personal Finance Managing Editor at U.S. News and World Report and is passionate about helping consumers fund their travels for as little cash as possible.

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Lindsey Olander

Former Content Contributor

Currently based in New York, Lindsey spent her childhood in Connecticut dreaming of far-off places. Her first flight was to Disney World at age 11. Her second flight was for a high school field trip to Italy, though travel as a career didn’t stick until she studied abroad in London during college and discovered the true power of her passport. Since then, she’s worked as a travel editor at Jetsetter and Travel + Leisure, where she reported on everything from African safaris to hot hotel openings to, yes, Disney World.

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Lori Zaino

Senior Content Contributor

Lori is an intrepid traveler who loves creating itineraries that exude “luxe on a budget.” She’s written for CNN, NBC, The Infatuation, and more, and loves to muse about points-fueled trips to Sri Lanka, Sicily, and Myanmar.

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Lukas Picton

Former Content Contributor

Lukas escaped his hometown south of Sydney and moved to the big smoke immediately after high-school, but the bright lights of the city weren’t enough, and he soon set his sights on more exotic international destinations and has been in love with travel ever since.

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Michael McHugh

Former Content Contributor

Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Michael took his first international trip in 2013 with friends to the Bahamas. Although he didn’t travel much in his younger years, on that trip, he caught the travel bug and has been hooked ever since.

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Michael Y. Park

Editor

Michael Y. Park is a journalist living in New York City. He’s traveled through Afghanistan disguised as a Hazara Shi’ite, slept with polar bears on the Canadian tundra, picnicked with the king and queen of Malaysia, tramped around organic farms in Cuba, ridden the world’s longest train through the Sahara, and choked down gasoline clams in North Korea.

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Spencer Howard

Former Content Contributor

Always a fan of flying, it was only natural that Spencer was drawn to finding a way to improve the travel experience.

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Stephen Au

Senior Content Contributor

Stephen is an established voice in the credit card space, with over 70 to his name. His work has been in publications like The Washington Post, and his Au Points and Awards Consulting Services is used by hundreds of clients.

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Susan Wright

Former Finance Contributor

While writing about finance and insurance isn’t something that keeps most people awake at night, it is what Susan Wright has focused on for more than 25 years. As a financial copywriter, Susan has an eye for money-related details such as credit and savings, and she loves to pass along helpful information to consumers. Susan holds 11 financial industry designations (including CLU, ChFC, RHU, REBC, ADPA, CITRMS, CIPA) as well as several licenses.

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Nick Ellis

Editor & Content Contributor

Nick’s passion for points began as a hobby and became a career. He worked for over 5 years at The Points Guy and has contributed to Business Insider and CNN. He has 14 credit cards and continues to leverage the perks of each.

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Chris Dong

Editor & Content Contributor

Chris is a freelance writer and editor with a focus on timely travel trends, points and miles, hot new hotels, and all things that go (he’s a proud aviation geek and transit nerd). Formerly full-time at The Points Guy, his work can now be found at AFAR, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, The Washington Post, and Lonely Planet, among others

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Stella Shon

News Managing Editor

With a degree in media and journalism, Stella has been in the points and miles game for more than 6 years. She most recently worked as a Corporate Communications Analyst for JetBlue. Find her work in The New York Times, USA Today, and more.

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Kellie Jez

Director of Operations & Compliance

Kellie’s professional experience has led her to a deep passion for compliance, data reporting, and process improvement. Kellie’s learned the ins and outs of the points and miles world and leads UP’s compliance operation.

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Ehsan Haque

Content Contributor

Ehsan is an avid traveler who has traveled to 100 countries, diligently using points and miles to fund his journeys. Currently, he holds 32 active credit cards and earns over a million points and miles annually, primarily using them for luxury hotels and long-haul premium cabins.

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Katie Seemann

Senior Content Contributor and News Editor

Katie has been in the points and miles game since 2015 and started her own blog in 2016. She’s been freelance writing since then and her work has been featured in publications like Travel + Leisure, Forbes Advisor, and Fortune Recommends.

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Juan Ruiz

Compliance Editor & Content Contributor

Juan has been involved in credit cards, loyalty, travel, and personal finance for more than 10 years. He has worked for several outlets including The Points Guy and Forbes and was previously Editor-in-Chief at Money Under 30.

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Ashley Onadele

Content Contributor

Ashley discovered a love for travel in college that’s continued as her family has grown. She loves showing parents how they can take their families on trips using points and has contributed to numerous publications and podcasts.

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Amar Hussain

Senior Content Contributor

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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Keri Stooksbury

Editor-in-Chief

With years of experience in corporate marketing and with a nonprofit, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and reviewing thousands of UP articles in the process.

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Daniel Ross

Senior Content Contributor

Daniel has loved aviation and travel his entire life. He earned a Master of Science in Air Transport Management and has written about travel and aviation in publications like Simple Flying, The Points Guy, and more.

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Victoria M. Walker

Senior Content Contributor

Victoria holds a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism from the Howard University School of Communications and is an award-winning journalist, travel reporter, and the founder of the “Travel With Vikkie” newsletter.

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Jarrod West

Senior Content Contributor

Boasting a portfolio of over 20 cards, Jarrod has been an expert in the points and miles space for over 6 years. He earns and redeems over 1 million points per year and his work has been featured in outlets like The New York Times.

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