Turkish Miles & Smiles Complete Guide

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Turkish Miles & Smiles is simultaneously one of the most valuable and one of the most frustrating Star Alliance programs. However, when you can find the availability you need, there is no doubt that the sweet spots can be well worth the challenges you may encounter in booking. This complete guide combines what we know about the program into a single resource.

Miles & Smiles is still making me smile…for now.

Things to know about Turkish Miles & Smiles award booking

  1. Book via email or over the phone if you can’t online: While some itineraries can be booked online, many itineraries don’t show up online, so you’ll need to either email or call to book over the phone with Turkish Miles & Smiles at 1-800-874-8875. Note that for a while, phone bookings were not working, but we received several reports of success from readers who booked over the phone early this year. Email bookings should also still be working, so try the email process if you strike out on the phone. Note that you may need to try more than one ticket office (there is some trial and error there) and that we’ve had reports of some difficulties with the process during the COVID pandemic, so booking may be more challenging in the short term.
  2. Connecting itineraries are OK: Award pricing is per direction regardless of segments (i.e. EWR-HNL is 7.5K one way in economy class. EWR-ORD-LAX-HNL is also 7.5K one way in economy even though there are 2 stops provided the layovers don’t exceed maximum connection times).
  3. Award holds: Turkish will give you a hold for 48 hours if booking more than 7 days in advance, so there is no need to transfer before putting an award on hold in most cases.
  4. Transfers are not instant: Citi ThankYou points generally transfer in 18-30 hours. You can alternatively transfer from Marriott Rewards, but the transfer time is likely to be a week or more.
  5. No mixed cabin bookings in most cases: You can not combine an itinerary with some legs in business class and others in economy class. An exception from the program rules is that per the terms it is now possible to book a mixed-cabin award in cases where one of your flights does not have a matching class of service (e.g. one leg has business class but the other leg is operated by a small regional plane with no business class cabin). However, YMMV — the online tool does not yet show these itineraries.
  6. Fuel surcharges are passed on. You’ll want to choose airlines with low/no fuel surcharges.
  7. United Airlines Saver availability only: If you’re looking to book United flights with Turkish Miles & Smiles, you must find United saver availability. Only United saver availability is bookable with partner miles. You can not book segments operated by Hawaiian with Turkish miles. You can not use Turkish miles to book award seats that are only available to United credit card holders or United elite members — only saver availability that you see when not logged in to a United account will be available to Turkish.
  8. The cancellation fee is very reasonable: The fee to cancel and redeposit an award is only $25 per passenger. The mileage redeposit is instant. Note that changes theoretically also cost $25, but in my experience it was easier to cancel & re-book.
  9. Many available routes don’t show up online. It’s not clear why, but many itineraries that are available at United.com do not show up on the Turkish Airlines website.
  10. Not all routes price correctly online. Most domestic US itineraries now price at 7,500 miles each way in economy class online. Some price at over 11K online for no known reason (the same itineraries can be booked over the phone for 7,500 miles each way).
  11. The online tool often doesn’t show the most direct routing. Even when direct flights are available, the system sometimes forces a connection (for example, rather than allowing a nonstop round trip award between San Francisco and Honolulu, the options presented required connecting through Los Angeles or vice versa).
  12. You can not book tickets for others online unless the member booking is also traveling. For example, the online system would not allow me to make a booking for my wife and son (without me) using my miles. However, it is possible to book travel for others over the phone and via email even when the member booking is not traveling.

Turkish Miles & Smiles sweet spots

North America

  • The short story: Turkish offers the same pricing on flights to Hawaii as for other domestic US awards, making them an unbelievable value for flights to Hawaii.
  • Miles required: 7,500 miles each way in economy class or 12,500 miles each way in business class domestically within the US or domestically within Canada (can include connections for the same price). For North American international flights (e.g. US to Canada or Mexico), 10K each way in economy class or 15K each way in business class.
  • How to find awards: Search United.com and look for "Saver Awards". You can also try searching via the Turkish Airlines website, but it does not always show full availability.
  • How to book awards: You can try booking on the Miles & Smiles website, though not all flights are available online. Previously phone bookings have worked and may again be possible. If all else fails, try booking via email. See our guide for booking United flights with Turkish for more detail.
  • Key warnings: Turkish agents occasionally can't see availability even though it is marked as "Saver". You may just have to try again with a different agent.
  • Transfer from: Citi

Caribbean

  • The short story: Turkish Miles & Smiles offers excellent award pricing for Star Alliance flights within North America (i.e. on United, Copa or Air Canada).
  • Miles required: From 10,000 miles each way in economy or 15,000 miles each way in business class. Note that domestic flights are 7500 / 12500 miles each way in economy / business, which should include the continental US to/from Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
  • How to find awards: Search United.com and look for "Saver Awards". You can also try searching via the Turkish Airlines website, but it does not always show full availability.
  • How to book awards: You can try booking on the Miles & Smiles website, though not all flights are available online. Previously phone bookings have worked and may again be possible. If all else fails, try booking via email. See our guide for booking United flights with Turkish for more detail.
  • Key warnings: Turkish agents occasionally can't see availability even though it is marked as "Saver". You may just have to try again with a different agent.
  • Transfer from: Citi

Hawaii

  • The short story: Turkish offers the same pricing on flights to Hawaii as for other domestic US awards, making them an unbelievable value for flights to Hawaii.
  • Miles required: 7,500 miles each way in economy class or 12,500 miles each way in business class (can include connections for the same price)
  • How to find awards: Search for available award space at United.com.  Important: make sure that the results indicate that the award is a "saver award", otherwise it won't be bookable.
  • How to book awards: While it's theoretically possible to book online (details here), you'll likely have much better luck via phone.  Even then, it may take several calls to get an agent who can see that the award space is available.  Details for booking via phone can be found here.  See also:  Turkish still a mixed bag, but patience helps.
  • Key warnings: Turkish appears to have a max connect time of 4 hours on a domestic itinerary, so itineraries with a longer connection would require 2 awards. Also, for an unknown reason, Turkish agents often can't see award space that other partner airlines can see.  You may have to call several times to get an award booked.  Keep in mind that transfers to Turkish are not instant; it will take 1-2 days for the miles to show up in your Turkish Miles & Smiles account.  As a result, we highly recommend calling to put an award on hold before you transfer points to Turkish miles.

Europe

  • The short story: At 45K each way in business class, Turkish offers one of the best mileage rates - but watch out for fuel surcharges on some partners.
  • Miles required: 45K miles each way in business class
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at united.com and call Turkish to book or go to turkishairlines.com, log in to your account, go to "Miles transactions" to find the Star Alliance booking tool and click "book now" to go to that search tool (not the tool on the home page at turkishairlines.com). Note that there may be bookable options that do not appear on the site (hence checking United and calling when necessary).
  • How to book awards: Book online at turkishairlines.com using the instructions above or over the phone at 1-800-874-8875 or via email
  • Key warnings: Turkish is sometimes unable to see Star Alliance availability for no explicable reason. However, Turkish allows a hold for long enough for points to transfer from Citi. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that you get your desired itinerary on hold via phone or email before transferring points.
  • Transfer from: Citi ThankYou points, Marriott Bonvoy

Africa

  • The short story: Turkish offers excellent pricing to North Africa on Star Alliance carriers and decent award pricing to Central and Southern Africa.
  • Miles required: 60K miles each way in business class to North Africa, 72.5K miles each way in business class to Central Africa, and 85K each way in business class to Southern Africa
  • How to find awards: Search for available space at united.com and call Turkish to book or go to turkishairlines.com, log in to your account, go to "Miles transactions" to find the Star Alliance booking tool and click "book now" to go to that search tool (not the tool on the home page at turkishairlines.com). Note that there may be bookable options that do not appear on the site (hence checking United and calling when necessary).
  • How to book awards: Book online at turkishairlines.com using the instructions above or over the phone at 1-800-874-8875 or via email
  • Key warnings: Turkish is sometimes unable to see Star Alliance availability for no explicable reason. However, Turkish allows a hold for long enough for points to transfer from Citi. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that you get your desired itinerary on hold via phone or email before transferring points.
  • Transfer from: Citi ThankYou points, Marriott Bonvoy

Getting Turkish Miles & Smiles miles

You can of course earn Turkish Miles & Smiles miles by crediting Star Alliance flights to Turkish. Wheretocredit.com is a terrific resource for determining your earnings for paid flights.

For those who prefer to earn / generate miles without flying, there are several options.

Citi ThankYou Points

Most people will transfer Citi ThankYou points to Turkish Miles & Smiles since Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles is a 1:1 Citi Transfer Partner. Simply log in to ThankYou.com and transfer your points to Turkish Miles & Smiles like you would with any airline partner.

Transfers from Citi are not instant. Transfer times vary from 18-30 hours. You should easily receive the miles in time to ticket your held award provided you initiate the transfer right away after placing the hold.

Citi did provide a transfer bonus to Turkish Miles & Smiles once in 2018. Hopefully we will see that return.

Marriott Bonvoy

You can alternatively / additionally transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Turkish Miles & Smiles at a rate of 3 Marriott points to 1 Turkish Airlines mile. When you transfer 60,000 Marriott points, you’ll get a 5K bonus for a total of 25K Turkish miles. Unfortunately, Marriott transfers are slow and may take a week or more. You can’t count on a transfer from Marriott processing while you have an award on hold.

Buy miles from Turkish

Turkish Miles & Smiles will sell you up to 50,000 miles for 3 cents per mile. These miles post instantly to your account, so this can be a way to top off your account for a valuable award. Turkish processes these transactions directly, so mileage purchases appear like ordinary airline charges.

Buy Citi ThankYou points

As long as you have a card that earns Citi ThankYou points, and you have at least one point in your account, you can buy additional ThankYou points for 2.5 cents each, up to a maximum of 100K points per year.  You can then transfer those points to airline miles.  Greg wrote about this in detail a while ago: Buy miles via ThankYou Rewards. He then wrote a post about doing it specifically for award to Hawaii. See: $386 to Hawaii round trip from anywhere in the US.

Step-by-step guide to booking Turkish Miles & Smiles award tickets

Check the Turkish Airlines website

As we’ve previously noted is the case with the Turkish Airlines website, availability shown online via Turkish Miles & Smiles is very much hit or miss. The good news is that you will find some good options easily bookable online. The bad news is that you will not see all of the bookable options on the website.

Key to finding availability online begins with knowing where to search. Unlike other airline websites, you will not start your search on the Turkish Airlines homepage, rather you’ll want to log in to your Turkish Miles & Smiles account and then click the drop-down from your name and choose “Miles transactions”.

Turkish miles

You can then find the “Star alliance award ticket” booking engine to the right of your name.

Turkish miles

Clicking “book now” will bring you to the Star Award Ticket booking engine.

Turkish miles

When you click the calendar to select dates, you can find a box to easily search for one-way awards, which is likely the easiest way to search.

Turkish miles

After searching, if awards are available in both economy class and business class, you will see radio buttons to select which class of service you would like to see displayed.

Turkish miles

If you search and nothing happens, it is not finding availability. This does not always mean that no awards are available. Assuming you have found Star Alliance availability via United.com or the Aeroplan website, you should be able to book that space by phone or email if it is not shown online. Note that sometimes, agents don’t see availability that should be there, so it may take multiple tries to book successfully.

Check United.com for saver availability

If you have not found your desired availability via the Turkish Star Alliance booking tool, the easiest next step is to check United.com for your preferred date and route looking for saver award availability. Only saver awards can be booked with partner miles. (Note that any Star Alliance partner awards shown on United.com should also be available to Turkish Miles & Smiles).

The United Airlines flights marked “Saver Award” can be booked with Turkish miles. Those with higher mileage prices (like 45K and 90K in the image above) can not be booked using partner miles.

Note that Turkish can not book seats that are only available to United credit card holders or elite members. Your best bet is to make sure you are not logged in at United.com when searching.

Calling Turkish Airlines to book via phone

The key to phone bookings with Turkish Miles & Smiles is that you must feed the agent each segment separately. (Alternatively, the email process still works. See this post for instructions on booking via email).

To book a United Airlines award ticket over the phone with Turkish Miles & Smiles, follow these steps:

  1. Call 1-800-874-8875
  2. Press 1 to continue in English
  3. Press 1 because you’re a Miles & Smiles member
  4. Enter your Miles & Smiles number
  5. Press 1 to confirm your number is correct
  6. Press 4 for reservations

When you call Turkish Airlines to book an award ticket over the phone, you will need to be prepared to tell the agent exactly which flights you want and then feed the agent one segment at a time.

For example, if you’re looking to fly from Chicago to Honolulu with a layover in San Francisco, you’ll need to be very specific:

“I’d like to book a partner flight on United airlines. There are 2 segments. The first flight is from Chicago (ORD) to San Francisco (SFO) on October 22nd for 2 passengers in economy class. I’m looking for flight UA 1891 leaving Chicago at 10am and arriving at 12:50pm in San Francisco.”

Let the agent find that flight. Then, move on to the next flight.

“The second segment is from San Francisco (SFO) to Honolulu (HNL) on October 22nd for 2 passengers in economy class. I’m looking for flight UA 300 leaving San Francisco at 2:10pm.”

If you instead just ask for Chicago to Honolulu, the agent will likely tell you that there is no availability (unless there is a nonstop flight available). You have to go segment by segment.

Keep in mind that the max layover on domestic itineraries appears to be 4 hours for tickets booked via phone or email. If your itinerary has a longer layover, you’ll be charged for two awards. The online booking tool sometimes returns results with longer layovers priced as a single award.

Note that sometimes, agents will not find the itinerary you want. In that case, you’ll need to hang up and call again. Unfortunately the process sometimes involves a few phone calls to get an agent who sees availability.

Book a Turkish Miles & Smiles award via email

Turkish Airlines operates ticket offices in 9 US cities and 2 Canadian cities. They publish contact information for these offices on their website here. Be sure to choose “Ticket Sales Office” rather than “Airport Sales Office” or something like that.

Here is an example email very much like some I have sent.

Hello,

I’m emailing to inquire about a Star Alliance award booking. As it is not possible to price this award online, I’m hoping you can confirm the number of miles required and any associated taxes or surcharges on the following itinerary:

Passenger: [Name]
Miles & Smiles Number: XXXXXX
Date: February 12, 2021
Class: Economy
Origin: IAD
Destination: LAS
Segments:
1) UA 632 12NOV IAD-LAX 1230 1456

2) UA 2365 12NOV LAX-LAS 1631 1745

Again, I’m looking for both the number of miles required and the total cost of any taxes, surcharges, or booking fees.
I really appreciate your assistance!
Sincerely,
[Name]

I find the response time to vary a bit but it is decent overall. You’ll need some trial and error: one office did not email me back at all while another generally emailed me back the same day if I emailed before 2pm Eastern. Keep in mind that most of the ticket offices are open 9am-5pm Monday through Friday, so you may not get a response after hours / on weekends.

When booking via email, Turkish may require all of the following paperwork:

  1. Miles & Smiles redemption form: This is a form that includes the basic route and price information and asks you to indicate the type of award (i.e. an award ticket on Star Alliance Flights). You’ll sign this form.
  2. Credit card authorization form. This form has your PNR and fare information. It also asks for date of birth, email address, phone number, driver’s license number, credit card information, and signature.
  3. Photos of your credit card (both front and back). Be aware that you may need to crop / resize your photos (my email kept bouncing back saying that the ticket office box was full and the message was undeliverable, but it turned out that my files were too large).
  4. Photo of your ID. I provided both front and back.
  5. Miles and Smiles card front and back copy. I didn’t have a physical card and couldn’t find a digital one on the desktop website. However, you can get your “Digital Card” in the main menu of the Turkish Airlines app when you are logged in and that was sufficient.

Note that I have alternatively had success putting an award on hold via email and then calling to pay and ticket the award without a need for any of the above paperwork.

Putting an award on hold

Turkish Miles & Smiles allows award holds when booking via phone or email. Once an agent finds your flights, you will need to ask them to put the itinerary on hold for you to transfer over the miles (since Turkish allows free and easy holds there is no reason to transfer miles before this point). The agent will need to take the names and birth dates of the passengers in your party to put it on hold.

Provided you are booking travel at least 7 days in advance, you will be offered a hold of 48 hours, which is plenty of time to transfer the miles necessary.

If you are booking a flight within 7 days of travel, you will only get a hold for 24 hours. That may be enough time to make the transfer if you’re lucky.

Once your itinerary is on hold, you’ll want to transfer the miles to pay for your award.

Calling to ticket

Once you have the miles necessary in your account, you’ll need to call back to ticket your held award.

The process is pretty straightforward: you’ll call Turkish again and tell them that you need to pay for an award you have on hold. You’ll give them the PNR you were given when you put your tickets on hold and they will verify all of the information. The agent will then transfer you to an automated system to enter your credit card information. After you enter credit card info, the agent came will verify the first 4 and last 4 digits of the card number and your Miles & Smiles number and then transfer you to an automated prompt to enter your Miles & Smiles PIN. That “PIN” is the password for the account. Once that is complete, the award can be ticketed.

Change / cancellation fee for Turkish award tickets

Changes before check-in will incur a $25 fee (the ticket must be used within 1 year of the day it is issued). Changes after check-in or a no-show will incur a $50 fee. Itineraries can be canceled over the phone and miles are immediately re-deposited.

Turkish Miles & Smiles expiration policy

Turkish Miles & Smiles miles expire 3 years after they are earned. You can pay a fee of $10 per 1,000 miles to extend miles for another 3 years, though at 1c per mile, that is quite expensive. It is best to avoid transferring unless confident you will use the miles within 3 years.

Turkish Miles & Smiles Elite Status

Turkish Miles & Smiles sometimes matches status for those with oneworld status. See Status Matcher for recent data pounts.

For those looking to earn status the old fashioned way, here are the tiers and requirements:

Note that you’ll want to check wheretocredit.com before choosing to credit your flights to Turkish to be sure that they are eligible to earn the miles you expect.

One key benefit of elite status may be the ability to pool family miles.

Bottom line

Turkish Miles & Smiles is without a doubt by favorite Citi transfer partner. However, they can also easily be the most frustrating program given the inexplicable difficulty in booking awards in some circumstances. However, the award sweet spots can be worth the challenge for those who don’t mind making a few phone calls or sending a few emails when necessary.

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