Recently I discovered the Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles program and thought I was dreaming. The program has several great ways to redeem the miles and they’re fairly easy to earn. How is it possible that I’ve never known about this program sooner?!
The Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles program has been around for a long time. I have seen it listed as a Citibank transfer partner but didn’t know much about it. I knew the program had a region-based award chart and you can typically find a sweet spot or two with those types of programs.
I’m a huge fan of British Airways’ Avios distance-based program because there are some excellent redemption options. The most popular redemption is the sweet spot from the West Coast to Hawaii. Another great redemption is being able to fly from several cities in the U.S. to Mexico for under 10,000 points each way.
With most loyalty programs converting to a dynamic pricing model, I didn’t think I’d find another overall program that I would like as much. Boy was I wrong! Turkish’s Miles & Smiles program has a lot of great redemptions that almost everyone can take advantage of! I promise, you guys are going to love this program!
Earning Turkish Miles & Smiles Miles
Unless you frequently fly to Istanbul for business, you may be asking yourself, “How do I earn Turkish Airlines miles”?
Earning points with your credit cards is the quickest way to earn miles. The Miles & Smiles program is a transfer partner of Citibank’s ThankYou program. Your ThankYou points will transfer to the Miles & Smiles program at a 1:1 ratio.
You can quickly earn ThankYou points with cards like the Citi Pretige or the Citi Premier card. Plus, if you also have the Citi Double Cash card, you convert your points into ThankYou points on a 1 cent per point basis. Here are a few highlights of these cards:
Citi Prestige – New cardmembers will get 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 within the first 3 months of opening an account. You’ll earn 5x points on all restaurant and air travel purchases, as well as 3x on other travel purchases. This card gives you an incredible 4th night free on virtually all hotel bookings made through ThankYou.com. You also get several statement credits and a free Priority Pass membership. The card does carry a $495 annual fee.
Citi Premier – New card holders will earn 60,000 bonus ThankYou points after spending $4,000 within three months of opening their account. New bonus categories are currently being phased in so be sure to check which ones apply to your account. However, there are several excellent categories that will be earning 3x ThankYou points. This card has a $95 annual fee.
Citi Double Cash – This is an excellent card for everyday spending. You’ll earn a cash back at a flat rate of 2% (1% when you make a purchase and the other 1% when you pay your bill). This card has a $0 annual fee. I think this is such a great card that I’ve had it in my wallet for several years.
Other Ways To Earn Miles
Flying – Turkish Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance, so you can earn points by flying on one of their partner airlines. United would be the most popular airline to earn Turkish miles with for those living in the U.S. The amount you’ll earn will vary by airline and the type of ticket you have. Just be sure to enter your Miles & Smiles number when making a reservation.
Marriott Bonvoy – You can transfer your Marriott Bonvoy points to the Turkish Miles & Smiles program at a 3:1 ratio. Plus, for every 60,000 points you transfer, you’ll get a 5,000 mile bonus. For example, if you can transfer 60,000 Bonvoy points for 25,000 Turkish miles.
Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles Program Overview
The more I have looked into this program, the harder it was for me to understand why this program isn’t more popular. Then I read that the Miles & Smiles program has recently upgraded their website. Apparently, the previous site had a horrible search function and it was next to impossible to find award availability. Sounds like a recipe for turning your loyalty program into something no one wants to use.
The current website is actually really easy to use. I was able to find a lot of availability for the sweet spots I was researching. There were a couple wonky things about it but once you know about them, it’s pretty easy to use. For example, when setting up a Miles & Smiles account, you are only allowed to use numbers for your password. The site doesn’t tell you this, so I won’t tell you how many times I received an error message before I finally figured it out.
Before we get into the best uses of your Turkish miles, here are several highlights about the program:
Traveling With Others – You can purchase up 5 award tickets at once using miles from your account. You can also purchase an award ticket for someone else even if you’re not traveling with them. I have read in different forums that booking an award ticket for someone else can range from fairly easy to somewhat tedious. I haven’t done this yet but when I do, I will update you on the process once I do.
When you call to put your award reservation on hold, they’ll be able to tell you how to do it. Just be sure to have everything set up before you transfer your miles. You don’t want the award space to disappear while you’re waiting for your miles to show up. You can call them at 1-800-874-8875.
Promo Awards – Turkish Airlines periodically will offer promo awards at reduced rates. Be sure to sign up for their newsletter to be notified of these award sales.
Award Reservation Holds – You can put an award reservation on hold for up to 72 hours. This is very important because it can take a day or two for the miles to transfer from your Citi ThankYou account to show up in your Miles & Smiles account.
Segments – You are allowed to have up to 4 segments on both the outbound and return flights. This is huge! This allows pretty much everyone the ability to take advantage of the sweet spots mentioned below.
Stopovers – When flying on Turkish Airlines, you are allowed one stopover in Istanbul. It doesn’t matter if this is on the outbound or the return flight. Stopovers are great because they allow you the chance to see another city for free.
Open-jaw – Open-jaw itineraries are allowed if you’re booking a round-trip award ticket.
One-way Awards – You are allowed to purchase one-way award tickets.
Change/Cancellation Fees – You can change or cancel your award flight for $25.
Surcharges – Turkish Airlines doesn’t pass on any surcharges for flights on United. However, surcharges are imposed on Turkish and other Star Alliance partner flights. For some itineraries, they can be pretty hefty so it won’t be worth redeeming your miles for those flights. For instance, I found a one-way flight to Venice on Lufthansa that had a fuel surcharge of $263.90.
Mileage Expiration – The miles you earn with this program will expire 3 years from the date you earned them. You can pay a fee to extend the expiration date of your miles. The fee can get expensive, so I would simply recommend not transferring them until you’re ready to use them.
Booking Miles & Smiles Award Tickets
From what I’ve read, redeeming your Miles & Smiles miles before was quite the Herculean task. However, now the process is actually quite simple. Just be aware there is one search tool for Turkish Airlines flights and another to book awards on Star Alliance partners. Don’t worry, I’ll walk you through it.
Booking A Flight On Turkish Airlines
If you want to book a flight on Turkish Airlines, the process is pretty simple. Start by logging in to your Miles & Smiles account. Next, check the “Award ticket” box in the search area, which will then take you to the search function. Enter in your itinerary and the search tool will display any available award flights.
The results will display both economy and business class availability. The one thing I didn’t like, was the search tool doesn’t give you a flexible search option. So if the day you’re looking to fly doesn’t have availability, then you’ll need to search day by day until you find an open seat. Hopefully they’ll add the ability to search by week or month soon to make it a little easier.
Booking A Star Alliance Flight
If you want to fly on a Star Alliance partner, you can’t use the same search tool that you find on the home page. It’s a little hidden but once you find it, it’s just as easy to search for flights. Let me show you how to find it. First, you’ll need to log into your Miles & Smiles account. Next, click on your name in the top right corner to display the drop down menu and then select “Miles Transactions”.
This will take you to a summary page of your account’s activity. On the right side of the page you’ll find the “Star Alliance award ticket” section. Click on “book now” and it will take you to the search tool for flights on Star Alliance partners. From here, the search tool is the same as the other one as far as I could tell.
Miles & Smiles Sweet Spots
Buckle your seatbelts, this is where the magic happens. A lot of airlines are changing their programs to have a dynamic pricing model. Translation; they can charge you whatever they want, whenever they want. That’s one reason why I’m loving the Miles & Smiles program. As long as you can find availability, the rates are fixed no matter when you travel.
To make it even better, because this program is region-based, allows multiple segments and is a partner of United, virtually anyone can take advantage of these redemption sweet spots.
Last year when I took advantage of the amazing sweet spot to Hawaii I thought it was an absolute steal! Not only does it require fewer miles but it isn’t limited only to flights from the West Coast. With Turkish miles, you can fly in economy from anywhere in the U.S. to Hawaii for only 7,500 mile each way plus $5.60 in taxes. And if you’re lucky enough to find availability, you can fly in business class for only 12,500 miles each way!
I found availability from Phoenix (where I live), New York and even South Bend, Indiana to Hawaii. If you’ve ever wanted to visit Hawaii, this is how you need to do it. Any other airline will easily cost you triple the points to go to Hawaii.
Alaska & Puerto Rico
Alaska has been on my bucket list for a long time. For only 7,500 miles each way, I can check it off my list. You can also fly to Puerto Rico for the same rate and soak up some sun.
These same rates apply to all domestic flights as well. These are perfect if you’re flying between major cities or to a small town that can typically be very expensive to fly to. How about flying to Rapid City, South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore?
This program is also a decent value when it comes to award flights to Europe. You can fly each-way for 30,000 miles in economy or 45,000 miles in business class.
This summer I took advantage of another Avios sweet spot to Mexico but again, this is only good if you live in select U.S. cities. Now everyone can fly to Mexico for cheap! Economy tickets are only 10,000 miles each way and business class is just 15,000! If you find it, definitely spend the extra miles and fly in the front of the plane.
Other Sweet Spots
With this program being region-based, I’m sure there are many more sweet spots to take advantage of. I’ll update this with more as I find them. In the meantime, play around with it and I’m sure you’ll stumble on something great!
The Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles program is quickly becoming one of my favorites. I love that there are so many great values and they aren’t limited to just certain cities. I don’t think this program will stay under the radar for too much longer, so take advantage of some of these deals as quickly as possible. If you find a great redemption that I missed, let me know in the comments so we can add it to the list.