Stefan Krasowski dreamed of visiting every country on the planet by the time he turned 40. His adventure has taken him to Djibouti, Tunisia, Bhutan and Syria, among countless other exotic locales. He funded his voyage with credit card miles, which led him to co-found the Reach For The Miles meetup, a community of travel enthusiasts who trade tips for taking advantage of the points system.
"I've taken out over 46 credit cards in five years and earned 2.6 million miles just in sign-up bonuses," said Janice Lintz, a travel blogger who hopes to visit every country in the world. So far, she’s seen 135.
There are innumerable stories about people gaming the credit card point system. One man opened a credit card and purchased $3,000 worth of Amazon gift cards in order to qualify for the sign-up bonus. Another bought an endless supply of blenders to cash in on a promotion that offered extra points on appliances.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, approximately 90% of all money spent on credit cards in 2018 went on rewards cards. The popularity of points and miles has led to sites like Million Mile Secrets, Upgraded Points, and The Points Guy, which guide consumers hoping to exploit their miles and points.
Meanwhile, card issuers have been promoting rewards to get consumers to borrow and spend more. Points can lead to unforgettable travel experiences for those with enough patience to learn the system. Financial experts are wary though since credit card interest rates are at a 25-year high and roughly 60% of reward cards holders don't pay off their balances at the end of the month.
Making use of the point system, however, doesn’t have to lead to financial ruin. Now back home, Krasowski teaches travelers, speaks at conferences, and blogs at Rapid Travel Chai. He uses his travel expertise and experience to show others how to use points to visit interesting and remote destinations.
Krasowski, a graduate of The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, began traveling when he took part in student exchange programs in Shanghai and Hong Kong. He visited every province in China, traveling by overnight bus or train when his classes finished. In China, he worked in international business development for more than a decade and became fluent in Mandarin Chinese.
After traveling the world, he is now interested in the US National Parks and Presidential Libraries, which he is exploring on road trips. One of his favorite trips is the Aleutian Island hopper route between Homer and Dutch Harbour on the Alaska Marine Highway System, which stops in numerous small communities that extend from the forests of Kodiak to the soaring volcanoes of Unimak.