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Ryan Smith

Content Contributor

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

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Ryan's Latest Articles

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Wells Fargo Rewards Program Review: How To Earn and Redeem Points Like a Pro

Wells Fargo Rewards Program Review: How To Earn and Redeem Points Like a Pro

Wells Fargo operates the Wells Fargo Rewards program, and both the bank and the rewards program have been on a tear over the past year. The flurry of activity includes introducing new credit cards and launching points transfers — neither…

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Thompson San Antonio – Riverwalk [In-Depth Hyatt Hotel Review]

Thompson San Antonio – Riverwalk [In-Depth Hyatt Hotel Review]

After a few nights at the bustling Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk, I spent the final night of my trip at the Thompson San Antonio – Riverwalk. While their names would make you think they’re next to each other, the…

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Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk [In-Depth Hotel Review]

Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk [In-Depth Hotel Review]

If you asked Hyatt to build a hotel right in the middle of the action, you’d get the Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk. As the name implies, this hotel is located along San Antonio’s famous River Walk. Even more, it…

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Are Southwest Business Select Tickets Worth the Extra Cost?

Are Southwest Business Select Tickets Worth the Extra Cost?

The author flew on a ticket provided by Hilton Hotels to attend a recent press event. All opinions are the author’s own, and neither Hilton nor Southwest had input in any part of this review. I recently flew Southwest Airlines…

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Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Travel Insurance – 10 Frequently Asked Questions [2024]

Chase Sapphire Preferred Card Travel Insurance – 10 Frequently Asked Questions [2024]

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card remains one of the most popular travel rewards credit cards for numerous reasons. Alongside excellent earning rates and a fair amount of benefits that justify the annual fee, the card also offers numerous shopping and…

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JetBlue Airbus A321 Mint Business Class 2024 Review [JFK to LAX]

JetBlue Airbus A321 Mint Business Class 2024 Review [JFK to LAX]

Airline: JetBlueAircraft: Airbus A321Flight #: B6223Route: John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)Date: March 11, 2024Duration: 6 hours, 31 minutesCabin and Layout: Mint business class; staggered 2-2 and 1-1 layoutSeat: 3D (aisle)Cost: $767.91 JetBlue Mint,…

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Condor Airbus A330-900neo Business Class Review [FRA to JFK]

Condor Airbus A330-900neo Business Class Review [FRA to JFK]

Airline: CondorAircraft: Airbus A330-900neoFlight #: DE2016Route: Frankfurt Airport (FRA) to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)Date: March 11, 2024Duration: 8 hours, 50 minutesCabin and Layout: Business class; 30 seats in a 1-2-1 configurationSeat: 5F (aisle)Cost: 55,000 Alaska Airlines miles + $177 in taxes and fees Famous for its striped…

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101 Hotel, Reykjavik, a Member of Design Hotels in Iceland [In-Depth Review]

101 Hotel, Reykjavik, a Member of Design Hotels in Iceland [In-Depth Review]

“Hello, is this a hotel? Are we in the right place?” It was a peculiar start to our stay at the 101 Hotel, Reykjavik, a Member of Design Hotels. Despite the quirky beginning and finding a dog at the reception…

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What It’s Like Flying PLAY Airlines Short-Haul From Iceland [March 2024 Review]

What It’s Like Flying PLAY Airlines Short-Haul From Iceland [March 2024 Review]

These days, it seems like new airlines are popping up all the time. There are new low-cost and ultra-low-cost players in Southeast Asia, Europe, regional U.S. markets, and even Iceland. Such is the case with PLAY Airlines, based out of…

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Hotel Rangá in Iceland, a Small Luxury Hotels Property [In-Depth Review]

Hotel Rangá in Iceland, a Small Luxury Hotels Property [In-Depth Review]

In the lead-up to a recent European vacation, my wife and I learned there would be increased chances of seeing the northern lights. My wife had been 0 for 3 on trying to see them, so we decided to add…

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AluaSoul Costa Málaga in Spain [In-Depth Hyatt Hotel Review]

AluaSoul Costa Málaga in Spain [In-Depth Hyatt Hotel Review]

My wife and I recently spent 3 nights on the southern coast of Spain. When you hear that we paid just €55 (~$59) per night for our hotel, your expectations for what we got probably aren’t very high. We weren’t…

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Renaissance Porto Lapa Hotel in Portugal [In-Depth Review]

Renaissance Porto Lapa Hotel in Portugal [In-Depth Review]

At the end of February 2024, my wife and I spent 3 nights at the Renaissance Porto Lapa Hotel, a Marriott property in northern Portugal’s largest city. The hotel opened less than a year before our visit, and everything still…

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Hyatt Regency Lisbon in Portugal [In-Depth Hotel Review]

Hyatt Regency Lisbon in Portugal [In-Depth Hotel Review]

My wife and I spent 4 nights at the Hyatt Regency Lisbon in late February 2024, and we honestly considered rearranging our trip to stay longer. The hotel was that great. The Hyatt Regency Lisbon is the first (and still…

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What It’s Like Flying Air Europa Short-Haul in Europe [February 2024 Review]

What It’s Like Flying Air Europa Short-Haul in Europe [February 2024 Review]

If you’re like me, you’ve seen Air Europa’s name multiple times as a member of the SkyTeam alliance and wondered more about it. However, I had never flown the Spanish airline until recently. After booking my flights, I had the…

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Thompson Washington D.C. by Hyatt [In-Depth Hotel Review]

Thompson Washington D.C. by Hyatt [In-Depth Hotel Review]

I had 2 expiring free nights in my World of Hyatt account and wanted to get a new tattoo to commemorate finishing my goal of visiting every country in the world. Looking around online, I found an artist I liked…

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7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Stay at the Dream Midtown, a Hyatt Hotel in New York

7 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Stay at the Dream Midtown, a Hyatt Hotel in New York

There are numerous hotels you can choose from in New York City. In fact, there are so many that it can feel overwhelming. Let me help you out by winnowing down your choices by 1. I’d like to let you…

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5 Ways To Save Money on a Visit to Iceland’s Blue Lagoon [2024]

5 Ways To Save Money on a Visit to Iceland’s Blue Lagoon [2024]

While there are other options for thermal baths in Iceland these days, the Blue Lagoon remains the most famous. It’s also the most expensive, due to this fame and the multiple amenities available, such as a spa and restaurant. And…

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TAP Air Portugal Airbus A321LR-neo Business Class Review [EWR to LIS]

TAP Air Portugal Airbus A321LR-neo Business Class Review [EWR to LIS]

Airline: TAP Air PortugalAircraft: Airbus A321LR-neoFlight #: TP204Route: Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado Airport (LIS)Date: February 19, 2024Duration: 6 hours, 14 minutesCabin and Layout: Business class; 16 seats in a staggered 2-2 and 1-1 configurationSeat: 1C…

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United Airlines Boeing 777-200 Economy Plus Review [LAX to IAD]

United Airlines Boeing 777-200 Economy Plus Review [LAX to IAD]

Airline: United Airlines (UA)Aircraft: Boeing 777-200Flight #: UA2032Route: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD)Date: February 4, 2024Duration: 4 hours, 40 minutesCabin and Layout: Premium economy class (Economy Plus), 3-4-3Seat: 41GCost: $168.90 To commemorate completing my goal of visiting every country, I had an…

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Marriott’s Grand Chateau, a Marriott Vacation Club Resort in Las Vegas [In-Depth Review]

Marriott’s Grand Chateau, a Marriott Vacation Club Resort in Las Vegas [In-Depth Review]

Fabulous Las Vegas. We recently visited as a group of 7 people while 5 relatives visited my wife and me from Brazil. My wife’s brother-in-law was dying to see Las Vegas as an easy hop from our Orange County, California,…

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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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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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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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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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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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Dan Miller

Content Contributor

Realizing that it wasn’t all first class flights and 5-star hotels, Dan started the Points With a Crew blog in 2014, with the aim of helping families (especially large families) to use miles, points and credit card rewards to take that trip that they might have thought they couldn’t afford. He has spent over 10 years covering developments in the travel rewards credit card space. His expertise extends to all things personal finance, including student loans, budgeting and real estate, and his work has been featured in sites all over the Internet, including NerdWallet, Forbes, Business Insider, Rocket Mortgage, CreditCards.com, Bankrate, Turbotax, Credit Karma and Intuit Mint.

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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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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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Erin Miller Picture

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 Picture

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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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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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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Julian Kheel

Content Contributor

Julian Kheel first learned the ins and outs of credit card rewards and travel loyalty programs while flying more than 200,000 miles a year as a TV producer and director for World Wrestling Entertainment. With over 15 years of professional experience studying travel loyalty programs, Julian has served as CNN’s Senior Editor covering travel and credit cards, as well as the Editorial Director of The Points Guy, and has worked as a consultant for the Big 3 U.S. airlines.

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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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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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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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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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Senitra Horbrook

Writer

Senitra Horbrook is a frequent solo traveler who began using points and miles in 2012. Formerly credit cards editor at The Points Guy, Senitra has also contributed to Forbes Advisor, AwardWallet, Insider, among others.

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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

Former 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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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 “Carrying On with Victoria M. Walker” newsletter.

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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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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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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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Brett Holzhauer

Content Contributor

Brett is a personal finance and travel junkie. Based out of Fort Lauderdale, he’s had over 100 credit cards and earned millions of credit card rewards. He learned the tricks of the trade from his mom, and has taken many steps forward. He wasn’t exposed to much travel as a kid, but now has a goal of reaching 100 countries in his life. In 2019, he sold all of his possessions to become a digital nomad, and he says it was one of the best decisions he ever made. He plans to do it again at some point in his life.

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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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Juan Ruiz

Senior Editor & Content Contributor

Juan has extensive experience in writing and editing content related to credit cards, loyalty programs, and travel. He has been honing his expertise in this field for over a decade. His work has been featured in various prestigious publications, such as USA Today, CNN Underscored, Forbes and The Points Guy. Juan is the visionary behind JetBetter, a premier award booking concierge service.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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