At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.
For years, Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles has been an exceptionally rewarding program for people willing to do a lot of extra work to earn their award tickets.
While there have long been some amazing sweet spots, until recently the program has been very difficult to use. You could only book tickets in person at a Turkish Airlines counter or city ticket office (in practice, it was possible to do this via email). Recently, this changed.
Miles & Smiles is still not an easy program to use, but with some patience, it’s at least now possible to book awards over the phone at 1-800-874-8875. Theoretically, you can also book some award tickets on the website, but it’s just not ready for prime time. Given that there is no telephone booking fee, it’s better to call.
Miles & Smiles program crash course
Turkish Airlines allows either one-way or round-trip awards. You can even add a stopover on round-trip award tickets. Be forewarned, though, that there are a lot of rules around this. Want to take advantage of a stopover? You can have one stopover on the outbound or return on Turkish Airlines-operated flights.
Citi ThankYou and Marriott points both transfer to Turkish Miles & Smiles, with which you can gain access to these awards. Note that Turkish does pass along fuel surcharges on award tickets, but the award redemption rates are so low that this can still represent excellent value.
» Learn more: Citi ThankYou points: How to earn and use them
8 great redemptions
1. North America to Europe and Turkey in business
It’s only 90,000 miles round-trip in business class from the U.S. to anywhere in Europe (including all of Turkey). Try to redeem miles on LOT Polish Airlines to minimize fuel surcharges.
2. North America to the Middle East in business
At just 94,000 miles round-trip to the Middle East, this is an absolutely unbeatable value. With some award programs, you’ll pay close that amount each way.
3. Flights within the United States (including Hawaii) in economy
It may be hard to believe, but you can redeem Turkish miles to fly United anywhere in the United States (including Alaska and Hawaii) for 20,000 miles round-trip, or 10,000 miles each way. This is absolutely unbeatable, since United doesn’t impose fuel surcharges within North America.
4. Flights from North America to Mexico in economy
Winters are better in Cancun. Why not go for just 20,000 miles round-trip with no fuel surcharges? You can fly there or any other destination in Mexico on United, Turkish Airlines’ partner, with no fuel surcharges.
5. Flights from North America to Central Asia in business
Want to experience the mysteries of Kazakhstan? It’s only 105,000 miles round-trip to this destination in business class.
6. Flights from North America to Kenya in business
Want to climb Kilimanjaro? It’s an astonishingly low 98,000 miles round-trip. Some award programs charge this much one way to Kenya.
7. Flights from North America to the Middle East in Lufthansa first
If you’re departing from the West Coast and transiting through Europe, the Middle East can be a very long flight. Enjoy it in Lufthansa first class for just 139,000 miles round-trip. There are high fuel surcharges on this route, but that’s just a reason to have another bubbly, isn’t it?
8. Flights from North America to Australia and New Zealand in business
It’s just 150,000 miles round-trip in business class to Australia or New Zealand. Air New Zealand also has very low fuel surcharges.
» Learn more: 4 ways to quickly rack up miles for your next flight
The bottom line
Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles isn’t an easy program to use, and it definitely isn’t for everyone. Points transfers can take one or two days, booking isn’t easy or immediate (you’ll be dealing with a call center in Turkey with often-long hold times), and you’ll be treasure hunting for slim inventory on routes with no (or low) fuel surcharges. It’s also not particularly easy to get these miles, given the lack of transfer partners.
The flip side is that if you’re willing to accept the risks with this program (given that transfers aren’t immediate) and do the work, you can enjoy some unusually good value.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2019, including those best for:
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Find the best travel credit card for you
Best Citi credit cards
Landing the best airfare is a matter of timing