You’ve seen their great content in your inboxes for the last few months. You may have even had Travis find you some incredible award space with our Award Booking Service.

Now, let’s get to know a bit more about the members of the MileValue Team.

Anna Zaks

Anna Zaks
Anna Zaks

Hello all! My name’s Anna and I live in Cleveland. I got into the points and miles game because I love to travel far and wide. To afford that and to be comfortable on the long flights, I had to figure out a way to earn lots of miles and points.

I’ve been a casual miles collector for a while before becoming really serious about my hobby. Why did I get more serious? Because after flying to Australia six years ago in United’s first class that I booked with just 80,000 miles, I was hooked! My husband and I also stayed at the iconic Park Hyatt Sydney using free nights earned with the old Hyatt card.

But after spending A LOT of money on hotels in other cities, (Australia’s an expensive destination), I knew I have a lot to learn, so I dove in head first. My other amazing points and miles trips included Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Maldives, Germany, Turkey and the list goes on. I’ve been to 30 countries and my list just keeps growing.

I have a few favorite countries that I can visit again and again and discover something new every time, but my absolutely favorite place to visit is Europe – I am planning to explore Eastern Europe next.

My favorite redemptions were two around the world trips in business class that I booked with ANA miles. These are an amazing value if you want to visit more than one continent on the same trip.

My first credit card, back in the day, was American Express Blue for Students. That card helped me build a solid credit history and I had no issues getting approved for the United MileagePlus card a few years later.

My next credit card is going to be my second go round with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. I had this card when it first came out four years ago and I am waiting to get below Chase’s 5/24 in a couple of months so I can apply for this card again. Ultimate Rewards is my favorite transferable currency and I need to replenish my stash of points.  

My biggest points and miles mistake was not opening multiple credit cards when, a few years ago, we remodeled our house. I only opened one card, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, and the signup bonus at the time was only 40,000 points. So don’t be like me, if you have any large expenses coming up, plan out your card application strategy in advance and take advantage of the guaranteed way to meet the minimum spending requirements on a few cards.

And here’s one more thing you need to know about me: I think having hotel or airline status is overrated! Hotel chains and airlines came up with this marketing scheme to make you spend more money at their properties and on their flights, but unless someone else is paying (an employer, for example), you won’t find me pursuing any status.

Beyond the opportunity cost aspect, there are so many great hotels all over the world that aren’t affiliated with any major chains. But if you are just looking to stay at Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton properties in pursuit of status or perks, you are missing out on some really unique and lovely stays. And as far as airline status? Well, I collect points and miles so I can book whatever flight I want, often in a premium cabin, no status needed!

Anya Kartashova

Anya Kartashova
Anya Kartashova

Hi, I’m Anya, and I’m a travel addict.

I was born in Kazakhstan and moved to Salt Lake City when I was 16. Before becoming a U.S. citizen, I went on a few international trips and a lot of domestic trips with my mom. Once I got my first U.S. passport, though, all bets were off as I began traveling internationally more and more.

Since 2009, I had used the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, my first rewards card, to earn miles here and there, but I was afraid to put all my spending on a credit card just yet. In 2012, I went on a month-long trip to Central America. In 2014, I went on another month-long trip to Southeast Asia. Didn’t use miles for any of it. Because most countries in these two regions are cheap once you get there, I started looking for ways to cover my flights with rewards.

In 2015, I applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, and the rest was history. Since then, I’ve applied for many more credit cards, increased my country count, quit my full-time job and began writing about points and miles.

My first award redemption was using the aforementioned Delta SkyMiles. I redeemed them to fly to New York City—my first trip to the Big Apple.

My favorite award redemption has to be a trip to the Bahamas and Grand Cayman—yes, two Caribbean islands on the same itinerary. I redeemed American Airlines AAdvantage miles to fly my mom and me to the Bahamas and back from Grand Cayman. I used 4,000 British Avios per person to fly between the two islands.

To cover the costs of lodging, I redeemed World of Hyatt points for five nights at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints (OMG, SPG!) to cover five nights at the Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa. It was such a great trip to the Caribbean covered mostly with credit-card rewards!

My next credit card will likely be the AAdvantage Aviator Business Mastercard. It’s been a minute since I’ve earned AAdvantage miles, and I don’t mind replenishing them for a future redemption.

I think my biggest mistake was waiting as long as I did to start collecting travel rewards in earnest. So many trips were paid for with cash… So many ways of generating rewards have died… So many bonus restrictions have been implemented… Luckily, plenty of earning days and fun travels are ahead.

My unpopular opinion is that Southwest Companion Pass is overrated. There, I said it. For starters, the airline’s destination pool is limited to the United States, Mexico and some islands in the Caribbean.

Second, you have to designate a person to travel with to Southwest destinations. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anybody who can travel as much as I can. I practically have to beg people to go with me and end up traveling solo anyway.

And finally, the apocalypse that is Southwest’s boarding procedure is just too chaotic. Let me pick my seat before boarding so I could sleep well in the days leading up to a trip.

Travis Cormier

Travis Cormier
Travis Cormier

Hi! I’m Travis, and I am so happy to be part of the MileValue team both writing and with our Award Booking Service. I currently live in Houston and have been involved in points and miles for about five years now.

I got started in points and miles by planning my honeymoon. After getting engaged my wife told me her dream honeymoon destination was the Maldives. To be honest, I had never even traveled outside of the United States and had no idea where the Maldives were. I thought they were in the Caribbean!

After doing some research I realized that the Maldives are practically on the other side of the world. Now I’m pretty tall, 6 feet 5 inches, and I wasn’t really looking forward to spending 24 hours or more in coach both ways. Plus, after seeing the costs, I didn’t quite know how to afford it!

I had casually read about points and miles in a few Reddit threads and decided “why not!” I started collecting points and miles with my now wife and we ended up earning enough points to not just go to the Maldives, but we flew there round-trip in first class and spent 10 nights in paradise.

Although I didn’t start off perfectly (my first card was a Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®), I quickly learned a lot of the rules and picked up some Chase cards while I was still under 5/24.

Even before our honeymoon, we earned enough points to travel to Hawaii to celebrate my wife graduating law school and completing the bar exam.

If you’re looking for me when I’m out of the country, 95% of the time you’ll find me in a tropical destination somewhere. I love scuba diving and am often looking for the next best shipwreck.

My favorite beach destination is the Maldives, but my favorite off the beaten track location is Laguna de Apoyo in Nicaragua. You can learn all you want about the Maldives from Instagram, but Nicaragua is a very special place that I recommend everyone travel to.

Laguna de Apoyo specifically is an extinct volcano that has filled in with water and created a lake! That’s right, you get to go swimming in a volcanic crater! You won’t find luxury resorts here, but it is still one of my most memorable trips.

Right now, I’m looking to travel to Hawaii next year and hop around the Caribbean a bit. I earned the Southwest Companion Pass for 2020 and 2021, but haven’t gotten to use it that much so I’m hoping to put it to good use next year.

If I could say anything controversial about travel it’s this: Spirit Airlines is severely underrated. I love using my American Express travel credits that I get with my American Express Platinum Card to pay for the Big Front Seat on Spirit. Usually it’s only about $50, and you get a much larger seat without paying the high prices for similar seats on major U.S. airlines.

That being said, I agree with Anya about Southwest’s boarding procedure. While I think the Companion Pass is great, I just want to know what seat I’m going to be in before the flight.

As a departing gift, I’m going to share my secret tip with you frequent Southwest flyers: upgrade to business select at the gate. Business select rarely sells out, but upgrading at the gate will only cost about $40-50 and you’ll be guaranteed A1-A15. Don’t spend the money on Early Bird Check-In, that’s $25 or more each way, and instead save your money and upgrade to business select if you don’t end up in the A group already.

Final Thoughts

Nothing like introducing ourselves after spending almost 6 months together now right?

Hopefully this has been helpful to give you some background information on some of the names and faces that you see here on MileValue regularly teaching you in the ins and outs of earning and redeeming points and miles.

Now it’s your turn! Please feel free to introduce yourselves in the comments below.

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