Turkish Airlines’ Miles&Smiles frequent flyer program is incredibly useful, and often flies under the radar. If it’s a program you’re not familiar with, it’s probably worth taking a look.
In this post:
Why you should care about Turkish Airlines’ loyalty program
Why should you care about the Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles program? There are several reasons:
- It’s easy to earn Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles miles with some major transferable points currencies
- Miles&Smiles saver level award pricing for travel on Turkish Airlines is phenomenal, among the cheapest of any program
- For situations where Turkish Airlines doesn’t have saver award space, Miles&Smiles has surprisingly attractive award rates that offer last seat availability
- Turkish Airlines has a phenomenal business class product (among my favorite in the world), and the airline flies to more countries than any other airline in the world
- Miles&Smiles has some unique award opportunities on Star Alliance partners, including some great award pricing for domestic United Airlines flights (though I’m not quite as enthusiastic about this redemption option as others)
How to earn Turkish Airlines miles
Turkish Airlines partners with two transferable points currencies, giving those with credit cards easy access to these miles:
- You can transfer Citi ThankYou points to Turkish Airlines at a 1:1 ratio, so you can earn Turkish miles with cards like the Citi Premier® Card (review); transfers are generally instant
- You can transfer Capital One miles to Turkish Airlines at a 1:1 ratio, so you can earn Turkish miles with cards like the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (review) (Rates & Fees) and Capital One Venture X Business (review) (Rates & Fees); transfers generally take one to two days
The best uses of Turkish Airlines miles
I wanted to highlight the Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles redemptions that I consider to be particularly lucrative. To start, you can find Turkish Airlines’ award tables on this page. Let’s talk more about the following:
- Turkish Airlines’ saver level award costs — these are a spectacularly good value, if you can find availability
- Turkish Airlines’ standard level award costs — these are surprisingly attractively priced, given that they offer last seat availability
- Turkish Airlines’ Star Alliance partner award costs — redeeming on Star Alliance partners can be a great deal, but booking can be a bit of a pain
Redeem miles on Turkish Airlines at saver level
The value of redeeming Miles&Smiles miles on Turkish Airlines is incredible, and among the best values of any program. Here are Turkish Airlines’ one-way business class award redemption costs for travel originating in the United States (Turkish Airlines calls these “promotional rewards”):
- Fly from the United States to Europe for 45,000 miles
- Fly from the United States to the Middle East for 47,000 miles
- Fly from the United States to Central Asia for 52,500 miles
- Fly from the United States to North Africa for 60,000 miles
- Fly from the United States to the Far East for 67,500 miles
- Fly from the United States to Central Africa for 72,500 miles
- Fly from the United States to South Africa for 85,000 miles
Seriously, the values here are exceptional:
- Los Angeles to Istanbul to Frankfurt in business class? That’ll cost you 45,000 miles
- Chicago to Istanbul to Dubai? That’ll cost you 47,000 miles
- Newark to Istanbul to Bishkek? That’ll cost you 52,500 miles
- Miami to Istanbul to Cairo? That’ll cost you 60,000 miles
- San Francisco to Istanbul to Ulaanbaatar? That’ll cost you 67,500 miles
As you’d expect, there are some things to be aware of:
- One free stopover is allowed in Istanbul on a roundtrip award, but that requires booking by phone (keep in mind if you have an extended layover, you can take advantage of the Istanbul city tour program, or the transit hotel program)
- Turkish Airlines does pass on fuel surcharges on award tickets, though they’re not too bad compared to other airlines; for all of the above awards you could expect to pay $180-270 one-way in fuel surcharges for business class
- While flying from the United States to Europe via Istanbul does involve backtracking in many cases, at least Turkish Airlines has a “proper” business class on many intra-Europe flights, so that may be a preferable option to connecting on another airline
- Turkish Airlines can be quirky with award availability; in some cases there’s virtually no business class award availability on a flight for weeks at a time, and in other cases there are four award seats per flight almost every day, so do some searches before transferring points
- If you search on Turkish Airlines’ website and see award pricing much higher than the amounts shown above, that simply means there’s no saver award space, and that awards are pricing at the higher costs (which I’ll talk more about below)
- You could hold award tickets for three days by phone if you want to lock in awards before transferring points
- Canceling or changing an award reservation costs $70, which might be a mild downside compared to some other programs
Redeem miles on Turkish Airlines with last seat availability
Of course you should do everything you can do to redeem your Miles&Smiles miles at the saver level, as it’s such a good value. However, Turkish Airlines often isn’t very generous with award availability. While many airlines have awards offering last seat availability, the pricing is often dynamic, and in some cases you could be looking at redeeming a million miles for a ticket.
That’s why I think it’s worth calling out Turkish Airlines’ standard award chart, which offers last seat availability. That’s right, as long as a seat is available for sale, you can book it with miles. The pricing is surprisingly attractive. Here are Turkish Airlines’ one-way business class award redemption costs that offer last seat availability for travel originating in the United States:
- Fly from the United States to Europe for 105,000-115,000 miles
- Fly from the United States to the Middle East for 120,000 miles
- Fly from the United States to Central Asia for 125,000 miles
- Fly from the United States to North Africa for 150,000 miles
- Fly from the United States to the Far East for 180,000 miles
- Fly from the United States to Central Africa for 175,000 miles
- Fly from the United States to South Africa for 200,000 miles
Like I said, I’d prefer not to redeem miles at this rate if possible. However, we’re increasingly seeing saver level award availability across airlines be tough to come by. Being able to redeem just 105,000 miles for a one-way business class ticket from anywhere in the United States to Istanbul with last seat availability is really quite attractive. I can’t think of another major program with such good pricing for last seat availability.
Redeem miles on Star Alliance partners
I’m not quite as excited about this as others. In general I wouldn’t redeem Turkish Airlines miles on Star Alliance partners because:
- There are fuel surcharges in many regions, and there are other Star Alliance programs through which you can redeem miles without fuel surcharges (some Star Alliance airlines charge $500+ in fuel surcharges one-way across the Atlantic in business class)
- While Turkish Airlines’ website does have a Star Alliance award search tool, in my experience it’s broken more often than it works, so you may have to book by phone
If you ask me, there is one particular partner award sweet spot. Award flights within a single region cost:
- 7,500 miles one-way in economy class
- 12,500 miles one-way in business class
Since Turkish Airlines is in the Star Alliance, you could redeem those number of miles for a United one-way award ticket within the United States, including to & from Alaska and Hawaii. Best of all, there are no fuel surcharges on domestic redemptions on United.
This is absolutely an incredible redemption value. The major challenge is that actually finding saver level award availability on United can be extremely challenging, especially in domestic first class (which is priced as business class). So if you want to pursue this option, you’ll probably want to start your search on United’s website using the calendar feature, before moving over to Turkish Airlines’ website. And then there’s the whole issue of Turkish Airlines’ website not being great for booking partner awards.
There are similarly good opportunities in other regions. For example, you could redeem just 12,500 miles for one-way Air Canada business class in a flat bed between Toronto and Vancouver, just to give a further example. There would be some fuel surcharges there, though.
How to book Turkish Airlines awards
How do you actually go about redeeming Turkish miles? First of all, you’ll need to open a Miles&Smiles account to search availability on Turkish’s website, but this is instant and free, and you don’t need any miles in your account to conduct a search.
Once you have an account, the process of searching for award flights on Turkish Airlines metal is easy. Just log into your account, and then follow this link, which brings you to an award search page. Alternatively, you can access this on the home page by clicking the “Award ticket – Buy a ticket with Miles” link.
On this page you’ll easily be able to conduct an award search. You’ll just want to enter your origin, destination, dates, number of passengers, and class of service.
The next page will display award flight options, and the process from there is pretty straightforward.
The process for searching Star Alliance award flights is a bit more complicated, as the airline seems to hide this option for whatever reason. Then there’s the whole issue of award space often not showing up, to the point that I find this to be pretty useless.
I’ve warned you, but if you still want to search award availability, you’ll first need to log into your Miles&Smiles account. Then at the top right you’ll want to hover over your name, and then click on the “Miles Transactions” button.
On the right side of the next page you should see a section that reads “Star Alliance award ticket,” and you’ll want to click that, which will bring you to the Star Alliance search page. Alternatively, you can just follow this link.
The Star Alliance search page is pretty easy to use, though award availability won’t always match what you see through other programs. Quite to the contrary, I often find that it doesn’t work at all.
Personally I often don’t have much luck getting award seats to show up even when there is saver level award availability. This space should generally be bookable by phone, but I do everything I can to avoid booking awards like this by phone, especially since Turkish Airlines’ call center can be… complicated. For me this is a major deterrent of booking Star Alliance partner awards through the Miles&Smiles program.
Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles is a fantastic niche frequent flyer program that is transfer partners with both Citi ThankYou and Capital One. I wouldn’t want to book most of my awards through the program, given that Turkish imposes fuel surcharges on many awards, Turkish’s website isn’t great, and booking partner awards online can be complicated.
However, for flights in Turkish Airlines business class, it’s tough to beat the Miles&Smiles program. Redemption rates are extremely low, and while there are fuel surcharges, they’re relatively mild. Turkish flies to more countries than any other airline in the world, and has a great product to boot.
I also think it’s noteworthy how good Turkish Airlines’ award pricing is for last seat availability. When you’re in a pinch and can’t find any saver award seats, I can’t think of any program with better pricing that gives you access to any seat on the plane.
As far as Star Alliance partner redemptions go, what makes Miles&Smiles special is the ability to redeem miles for travel within a region. You’ll pay 7,500 miles for a one-way economy ticket, and 12,500 miles for a one-way business class ticket. That’s an awesome deal, assuming you can find award availability and are willing to go through the hassle of the booking process.
If you’ve redeemed miles through Turkish Miles&Smiles, what was your experience like?