When it comes to the best airline loyalty programs, Turkish’ Miles and Smiles is a bit of an underdog. Not as well-known as other Star Alliance reward schemes, the Turkish Airlines frequent flyer program is undoubtedly worth a try, especially if you fly a lot in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Here is a complete guide to Miles and Smiles.
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What is Miles and Smiles: The Turkish Airlines Frequent Flyer Program?
Turkish Airlines (“TYR”) is one of the biggest airlines in the world, serving over 300 destinations in over 120 countries.
Their primary hub is Istanbul Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world and a connecting point between Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
Apart from Turkish Airlines, the group owns Air Albania and Anadolu Jet, two smaller regional airlines. More importantly, Turkish Airlines is part of Star Alliance, the largest airline alliance in the world that also includes heavyweights like Lufthansa, United, and Singapore Airlines.
Miles and Smiles is the Turkish Airlines frequent flyer program you can use to earn and redeem miles for Star Alliance and Turkish Airlines flights.
Better still, you can also earn miles through popular hotel booking platforms like Booking.com and car rental companies like Enterprise.
Here are some of the benefits of using Miles and Smiles:
- You can earn miles on any Star Alliance flight;
- Redeeming the miles is surprisingly cheap and easy on Turkish Airlines flights. You can, for example, get a business class flight from North America to Europe for 45k miles;
- There are many possibilities to earn Turkish Airlines miles with credit cards, hotels, and rental cars;
- Turkish Airlines has one of the best economy products in the world and competitive business products;
- Connecting through IST Airport is generally efficient;
- Turkish’s inflight customer service is among the best in the industry.
After introducing the program, let’s get to the best Miles and Smiles hacks.
Turkish Airlines’ Frequent Flyer Program: How to Get Turkish Airlines Miles
There are essentially four ways to earn Turkish Airlines miles: flying, partner companies, credit cards, and buying miles. Let’s discuss each of the four.
How to Get Turkish Airlines Miles Through TYR and Star Alliance Flights
The easiest way to get Turkish Airlines miles is by flying with TYR or Star Alliance airlines.
If you book a Star Alliance flight (for example United from NYC to Atlanta), you can enter your Miles and Smiles number, and the miles will automatically be credited to your account.
How many miles you earn per flight depends on your booking class, your Turkish Airlines status level (more on that later), and the distance flown.
According to The Points Guy, an economy flight (class U) from Los Angeles to Istanbul will earn you 25% of the 6,865 miles flown, equalling 1,716 redeemable miles.
How to Get Turkish Airlines Miles Through Hotels and Car Rentals
One of the easiest way to get Turkish Airlines miles is to book hotels and car rentals via their site.
Here’s how it works: you log into the Miles and Smiles website and choose “book a hotel” under the section “Plan and Book.” The site will redirect you to Booking.com. You can then enter your Miles and Smiles number. Usually, you get 2 miles per € spent.
However, the program often has promotional periods where you can get 3, 4, or even 5 miles per € spent. If you stay in expensive hotels, you quickly get a lot of Turkish miles.
The only con is that it usually takes 2-3 months before the miles appear in your Miles and Smiles account. As you can see in the graph below, I got lots of extra miles by simply booking hotels on Booking.com, which is my preferred accommodation platform anyways.
The second recommendable way to use Miles and Smiles is to book rental cars through their site. They partner with Alamo and Enterprise, and the miles rewards are pretty sweet. In the example below, I got 1.2k Turkish Airlines miles by spending 300€ on an Enterprise rental car.
Earn Miles and Smiles Through Credit Cards
You can use several credit cards to get Turkish Airlines points. Here are some of the most popular choices:
- Citi Double Points Card;
- Citi Prestige Card (5x points);
- Citi Premier Card (allround great travel hacking credit card);
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card (possibility to transfer points from Marriott).
Which credit card works best for you will depend on your earnings, how much you fly, and your credit score.
Can You Buy Turkish Airlines Miles?
Yes. On the “Miles Transactions” page, you can buy Turkish Airlines miles, including status miles.
As you can see from the screenshots, 150 USD will buy you 5k miles, which is a decent deal. Buying Turkish Airlines miles is worth it if you need some for your upgrade.
What Kind of Turkish Airlines Status is There?
To get Turkish Airlines status, you’ll need to accumulate enough status miles (from flights only) in a one-year period. Getting status is possible if you fly a lot with Turkish or other Star Alliance members.
The following are Turkish Airlines’ status brackets:
Turkish Airlines’ Frequent Flyer Program: How to Redeem Turkish Airlines Miles
Now, let’s get to the good stuff: how you can turn your Turkish Airlines air miles into almost free tickets and upgrades.
How to Redeem Turkish Airlines Miles on Flights
One of the best ways to use your Turkish Airlines miles is to get an award ticket on a TYR or Star Alliance flight. The prices in miles are competitive.
How to get a Turkish Airlines award ticket: On the dashboard, you’ll find the section “Award Ticket” in the top right corner.
How to get Star Alliance award tickets: go to the “Miles Transactions” page and head to the “Star Alliance Award Ticket” section. The website will redirect you to a Star Alliance-dedicated booking platform.
Prices for a Turkish Airlines Award Ticket in Miles
The prices depend on the destination and booking class, but the chart below should give you some ideas.
Here are some factors to take into consideration:
- Fuel surcharges can increase the price. United, for example, doesn’t charge these, and they are relatively affordable on Turkish Airlines flights. On some Star Alliance carriers (Lufthansa, for example), fuel surcharges can add up quickly and increase the taxes you’ll have to pay on top of your award mile price.
- One-way award tickets cost half of round trips.
- Multi-city tickets are allowed. You could, for example, buy an award ticket from Istanbul to NYC and then from Chicago to Frankfurt.
- There are promotional award tickets and regular award tickets. The chart below shows promotional tickets requiring fewer miles than regular ones.
Here are some examples of two award tickets I bought in late 2022:
- I paid 8,8k miles + 15€ in taxes for a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to Antalya. That flight would cost around 100€.
- I got an excellent deal on a two-segment Turkish Airlines award ticket from Mardin, Turkey to Tbilisi, Georgia via Istanbul. I paid 7.5k miles + 43€ in taxes. The cash price would have been 260€.
As you can see, these prices in miles correspond roughly to the chart that Turkish Airlines published a while ago.
How to Get a Turkish Airlines Upgrade With Miles
You can get a Turkish Airlines upgrade with your miles. Just select “Upgrade” in the “Manage Booking” section.
Depending on availability, it will cost you 15k-25k miles to upgrade one way. You can also pay 350 USD cash.
On Star Alliance flights, it’s a bit trickier to upgrade with Miles and Smiles. In some instances, calling customer service or trying your luck at the airport is the only option.
Generally speaking, buying a business class award ticket with your miles is a better option than trying to upgrade your economy class ticket.
Cons of the Miles and Smiles Program
The following are some of the negatives when it comes to Turkish Airlines’ frequent flyer program:
- The Miles and Smiles website is not the best. It often displays error messages for no reason and sometimes crashes. Worse still, you need to use a separate booking platform for Star Alliance award tickets;
- The Star Alliance award ticket platform doesn’t display all the options, even if awards are available. As such, you sometimes have to call if you want to book an award;
- You can only book award tickets for yourself online. If you want to add a second passenger, you’ll need to call;
- Fuel surcharges can bump up the prices (especially on Lufthansa award tickets).
Conclusion on Miles and Smiles
The rankings of the best frequent flyer programs are constantly evolving, but right now, the Miles and Smiles program is up there.
After using the program for a year, I can safely say that it’s one of the easiest programs to redeem air miles.
To conclude, here are the situations in which the Turkish Airlines Frequent Flyer Program excels:
- You frequently use TRY and connect through Istanbul or fly a lot on Star Alliance carriers;
- You have access to one of the aforementioned Citi credit cards;
- You frequently use Booking.com for your hotel reservations.
If any of these apply to you, you can save a lot of money with the Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles program.