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Credit card rewards and points are more popular than ever: NPR



Stefan Krasowski, co-founder of the Reach For The Miles Meetup, in front of Krak des Chevaliers in Western Syria. The war-torn country was the last Krasowski had yet to visit

Stefan Krasowski / Fast Journey Chai


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Stefan Krasowski / Rapid Travel Chai

Stefan Krasowski, co-founder of the Reach For The Miles Meetup, in front of Krak des Chevaliers in western Syria. The war-torn country was the last Krasowski had not visited yet.

Stefan Krasowski / Rapid Travel Chai

Stefan Krasowski had a dream: to visit every country in the world before he turned 40. This dream took him around the world, from the crystal-blue crater lakes of Djibouti and the ancient Roman ruins of Tunisia to the foothills of the Himalyas in Bhutan.

But when Krasowski's 40th birthday approached, only one country escaped him: Syria.

When he found out last month that the country's tourism minister had approved his visa, he dipped a card point into his sizeable stock of credit and hopped on a plane.

"One day, at dusk, I boarded a plane to Beirut and Damascus," he said.

Krasowski's traveling ambitions are possible thanks to his obsession with credit card rewards. He is part of a growing subculture of people for whom collecting points has become a kind of sport.

That's why Krasowski founded a group in New York called Reach For The Miles, a gathering of hackers and deal-optimizers who trade tips on playing the points system.

"I've taken out more than 46 credit cards in five years and earned only 2.6 million miles as a sign-up bonus," said Janice Lintz, a ] travel blogger. She is a regular at Reach For The Miles and like Krazowski she is determined to visit every country in the world. She is 135.

Earlier this month, she had just returned from Easter Island. The journey was great, but what Lintz really wanted to talk about was all the points she had earned by flying there.

"So I'm not sure where I came from, but I think I was paid to drive to Iceland after Easter," Lintz said.