Turkish Miles Guide: Earning and Burning miles with an incredibly valuable mileage program

Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

Most of you are very familiar with all of the U.S. based airlines, especially the big hitters like Delta, United and American Airlines. And you’re probably also familiar with, at least, the basics of their loyalty programs. But what about the more obscure airlines and frequent flyer programs, like Turkish Airlines? If their Miles & Smiles frequent flyer program isn’t on your radar, it should be. Especially if you tend to book a lot of domestic flights with United or enjoy flying to Europe in business class.

That might sound odd, but I’ll explain why. Now let’s take a look at the ins and outs of Turkish Airlines’ loyalty program and the best ways to earn and redeem Turkish miles.

(Photo by NextNewMedia/Shutterstock)

How to earn Turkish Airline miles

Earn miles with a credit card

The easiest way to earn Turkish Airlines miles is with a Citi ThankYou points earning card, many of which make great travel credit cards. Or by transferring Marriott points to your Turkish Airlines account.

Cards that earn ThankYou points include:

And if you have any of the Citi cards above, you can also convert the rewards you earn with the Citi® Double Cash Card to ThankYou points as well.

The information for the Citi Premier and Citi Prestige has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

It’s also possible to transfer Marriott points to Turkish miles when you earn points Marriott Bonvoy credit cards such as:

Marriott points transfer to Turkish Airlines miles at a 3 to 1 ratio. And for every 60,000 Marriott points you transfer, you’ll earn a 5,000-mile bonus. This means 60,000 Marriott points will transfer to 25,000 Turkish Miles & Smiles miles — which may or may not make sense depending on how you’re using your miles.

Earn miles by flying Turkish Airlines

In addition to earning ThankYou points or transferring Marriott points to Turkish miles, you can also earn Turkish Airlines miles by flying the airline. When you fly a flight operated by Turkish Airlines, you’ll earn Turkish miles based on your fare class, elite status level and the distance of the flight. Here’s a look at Turkish Airlines’ mileage earning chart:

Earn miles by flying a partner airline

Because Turkish Airlines is a part of the Star Alliance, it’s also possible to earn Turkish miles when you fly other Star Alliance partners (like United) and credit your flight to your Miles & Smiles account. Here’s how many miles you’ll earn flying Turkish’s partner, United:

The number of Turkish miles you’ll earn is based on the fare class and distance of your United-operated flight. There are different earning charts for each of Turkish’s partners and you can find those here.

Other ways to earn Turkish miles

There are other ways to earn Turkish miles but they are by no means the most efficient way of doing so. For example, you could book a hotel room using RocketMiles to earn Turkish Airlines miles. Or earn miles through a car rental. But these earning rates are usually pretty low so it may be hard to earn a lot via these methods.

Turkish Airlines also has some partner companies that offer miles in exchange for doing business with them but unfortunately, most of those businesses are based in Turkey and are therefore not useful for anyone based in the U.S.

Turkish Airlines award chart

Turkish Airlines uses region-based award charts and offers two levels of awards — regular and promotional. As you might expect, the promo rates are more limited and may have special terms and conditions.

With the region-based award charts, you can book award flights within the same region for 15,000, 25,000 and 40,000 miles round-trip for coach, business and first class, respectively. And one-way tickets cost half the price of a round-trip flight.

You’ll find Turkish Airlines’ award program FAQs here. And they also offer an in-depth explanation of the program’s terms and conditions.

Do Turkish Airlines miles expire?

Turkish Airlines miles have an expiry date of three years. And although it’s possible to pay a fee to extend the life of your miles for another three years, the fee likely isn’t worth it. You’ll pay $10 for every 1,000 miles that are about to expire — which is quite hefty. So you should plan accordingly and use any miles in your account long before they reach expiration.

How to book a flight with Turkish miles

The best way to redeem Turkish miles is for award flights. Sure, there are other ways to use your miles. But as it is with most rewards programs, you’ll get the most value by actually using them for flights.

Using the Turkish Airlines site to search for flights is fairly straightforward but certainly not perfect. And when it comes time to book an award flight you may run into a few hiccups, especially given you can But the extra steps are worth it for the miles you can potentially save booking a Star Alliance flight through Turkish instead of, say, United.

How to book a Turkish Airlines-operated award flight

If you’re looking to book a Turkish Airlines-operated award flight, start on Turkish’s home page by clicking the “Award ticket” checkbox in the search engine.

You’ll be prompted to log in to your Miles & Smiles account, and you’ll have to enter your loyalty number and password and click “Sign in.”

After that, you can enter the details of your search.

For example, I searched for a round-trip flight from Atlanta to Istambul in September 2020. As shown below, you’ll be able to see a weeks worth of departure and return option as well as the number of miles you’ll need, which is a nice feature of the system.

From there you can select the dates you want.

 

And once you select your flights, you’ll be able to see specifics like flight details, aircraft type and the award space labeled as promotional pricing or regular pricing.

   

Click “Select this flight”. The system will show you the total cost, in miles, of your award flight, after which you can enter your personal details and book your ticket.

How to book a Star Alliance partner award flight

Searching and booking a Star Alliance-operated award flight is a bit of a different process, and you’ll need to first navigate to the Star Alliance award search engine on Turkish Airlines’ site.

First, log in to your Turkish Miles & Smiles account and, on the drop-down menu (below your name), select “Miles Transactions.”

Then click “Book now” and you’ll be directed to the Star Alliance search engine.

 

Be sure and follow these instructions if you’re booking a flight on a Star Alliance partner because if you’re on the wrong search engine it won’t show any available flights. In addition, when searching for Star Alliance flights, you won’t be able to see a week-long view or select between coach and business award tickets within the search. Instead, you’ll see the different cabins available on the search results screen.

Click on the flight and you’ll see the details along with the number of miles you’ll need. From there, click the “Select this flight” button and you’ll be asked to enter your personal information to book the flight.

It’s also worth noting that while Turkish’s Star Alliance search engine works a lot better now than it did in the past (you used to have to go to a ticket counter to get an award flight ticketed!), it still isn’t flawless.

Sometimes it won’t show all of the partner flights available, like those you’d be able to see searching on United’s site. But if this happens, you may have luck calling Turkish Airlines (800-874-8875) and having an agent make the booking for you over the phone.

Best use of Turkish miles

U.S. to Hawaii (An amazing deal!)

With the Turkish Airlines partner award chart, you can fly within the same region for 15,000 miles round-trip or 7,500 one-way. And what’s so great about that is that Honolulu and all other destinations in Hawaii are included in the North America region. So a round-trip flight from the rest of the U.S. to Hawaii is only 15,000 Turkish Airlines miles (or 7,500 miles one-way). All flights within mainland U.S. are only 15,000 miles round-trip too!

It’s hard to beat Hawaii when it comes to a tropical escape. (Photo by emperorcosar/Shutterstock)

That’s an incredible deal given that these tickets don’t charge fuel surcharges and some of the least expensive award tickets you can find booking through other loyalty programs will likely cost you 20,000+ miles one-way.

For example, I found a plethora of available coach flights between Denver and Honolulu on United in September 2020. Some with a stop and others non stop. Again, all costing just 7,500 Turkish miles one-way.

In theory, it’s also possible to book these flights in first class for 12,500 miles one way — a fraction of the 40,000+ miles you’d spend if you booked these flights directly through United. But be aware that first class awards to Hawaii can be extremely hard to find.

U.S. to Europe in business class

Award flights to Europe can also be a good value using Turkish Airlines miles. You can fly from North America to both Europe Zone 1 and Europe Zone 2 for the same amount of miles — 30,000 miles one-way in coach and 45,000 one-way in business.

Fly Turkish Airlines business class to Europe for just 45,000 miles. (Photo by Zach Honig.)

For example, I found a business class flight between Denver and Frankfurt, Germany, in October 2020, with Star Alliance partner United. As you can see, you’ll pay just 45,000 Turkish miles one way. Booking directly through United you’d pay at least 60,000, if not upwards of 100,000, miles for a one-way ticket. Even other Star Alliance partners like Avianca Lifemiles, which is generally considered a great award program, charges much more than Turkish on these routes. That can translate into huge savings.

U.S. to Mexico

An award flight between the U.S. and Mexico booked directly through United would cost at least 17,500 United miles in coach or 30,000+ miles in business, each way. But using Turkish miles this flight would cost either 10,000 or 15,000 miles, respectively, which is a savings of thousands of miles.

Take this flight from New York-Newark to Mexico City in October 2020, as an example. Coach tickets cost 10,000 miles and business just 15,000 miles — and there were half a dozen flights to choose from, too.

Mexico City is an enchanting place! (Photo by Ramiro Reyna Jr/Shutterstock)

North America to India

With Turkish Airlines’ award chart India is included in the Central Asia zone. This means you can snag a one-way award ticket from North America to India for as little as 34,000 miles in coach and 52,500 in business on partners like United and Air India.

I found a business ticket from New York to Delhi in early October 2020 for 52,500 Turkish miles. Booking this exact same seat through United would cost you 75,000 United miles – a savings of 22,500 miles – which is huge.

Transcontinental flights in business class

Lastly, I’m going to mention the opportunity to cross the U.S. for a mere 12,500 Turkish miles one-way — in a lie-flat seat none the less! That’s right, if you can find availability, a lie-flat business class seat on United from New York to San Francisco, for example, can be yours for just 12,500 Turkish miles.

Fly United Polaris business class across the country for just 12,500 miles one-way. (Photo courtesy of United)

That’s a great deal considering these flights booked through United can easily cost 25,000 United miles. So you’re essentially paying half if you book using Turkish miles instead.

Bottom line

If you’re able to earn Turkish miles through Citi ThankYoou points earning cards or by transferring your Marriott points, the Turkish Airlines Miles & Smilies program can offer some incredible value.

Whether you want to fly across the U.S., travel across the Pacific to Hawaii, or fly all the way to India or Europe, booking with Turkish Airlines miles instead of going directly through a partner airline like United can end up saving you tens of thousands of miles.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

Join the Discussion!

Subscribe
Notify of
5 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Gary
2 months ago

Thank you for this great information!
I’m looking at IAD to NRD using miles via Star Alliance award… As you mention, I see econ numbers, but I need to call TA to find out how many miles are required for business class?
Sorry they don’t/can’t include business in the search…

Niraj
2 months ago

This is excellent. Great piece Megan.