Fantastic News: Citi Adds Star Alliance Member Turkish Airlines as Transfer Partner

I’ve always liked Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles because they’ve been the most generous Star Allinace program over time offer status matches and the status lasts up to two years. In addition their award chart is downright cheap for many redemptions — whether using the Turkish Airlines award chart or the Star Alliance award chart.

What’s held me back from using the program much is that it isn’t a program for banking miles, and miles are hard to earn for US residents.

  • Miles expire after the end of the third year in which they’re earned.
  • Until now it’s been pretty well impossible for US residents to add to their accounts in a big enough way to redeem great awards since they haven’t been a transfer partner of any of the major bank programs. That’s changed.

Copyright: boarding1now / 123RF Stock Photo

Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles is a brand new transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Rewards. Points transfer one-to-one.

While Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles adds fuel surcharges onto redemptions, their pricing is very reasonable.

  • They charge 90,000 miles roundtrip between the US and Turkey — or anywhere in Europe — in business class. They charge 98,000 miles roundtrip between the US and North Africa via Istanbul.

  • Asia or South Africa is 135,000 miles roundtrip in business class.

  • Turkish Miles & Smiles also offers companion award tickets for fewer miles in conjunction with a paid ticket, e.g. US – Istanbul at 63,000 miles roundtrip.

Booking, though, isn’t the simplest procedure. Turkish awards can be issued on the airline’s website. However if you want to book a Star Alliance award you can’t do it online. Call up and speak to an agent, they can set up an award but not ticket it. You’ll be sent to deal with a physical ticket office for this and they have those all over the world but not in every city!

  • Fortunately I’ve been able to get ticket offices to do ticketing by phone, rather than having to go in person, though this may vary by ticket office. The Toronto office is reasonably good over email.

  • Another issue is that some offices seem to insist on bank transfers to pay taxes by phone rather than accepting credit cards.

  • However since ticketing must be done by a ticket office, they allow award holds.

Routing rules are somewhat complex for Star Alliance awards. You can’t mix cabin classes in a single direction, and you cannot mix airlines in a single direction (or you’ll be charged for more than one award). You can backtrack in your routing, and including up to 8 segments on an award, but if you connect in a more expensive award you’ll be charged for travel to that higher zone.

US frequent flyer programs are safe and simple for members to use, but the best value is often in foreign programs — Korean Air, Singapore Airlines, ANA to name a few — and this is a great niche add for Citibank although one that the median cardholder could well be frustrated by when trying to use.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Not great. I had 30k expiring and booked IST-BKK as a last resort vs. losing them. $150 in fees for the ticket.

  2. Is the TSA still systematically giving US citizens who transit IST the SSSS on their boarding passes for 2-4 months subsequent to passing through IST as had previously been reported?

  3. @JB they’d match the equivalent YQ on a paid ticket, which is how it works for almost any airline frequent flyer program that adds YQ to awards, the relevant question is “what route?”

  4. “Routing rules are somewhat complex for Star Alliance awards. You can’t mix cabin classes in a single direction, and you cannot mix airlines in a single direction (or you’ll be charged for more than one award).”

    @Gary So this means if you live in DSM and have to connect on UA DSM to ORD to IST that you’ll be charged for two awards?

  5. Gary, great summary (and much better than what your peers have put out there). Thank you. One additional question. Is there any information out there about how to use Miles & Smiles to upgrade an revenue ticket once the ticket is purchased through Turkish Airlines and points have been transferred into your Miles & Smiles account? I can’t seem to find anything.

  6. Is there better availability for Turkish airlines own flights like Miles and more? Or is it the same as any star alliance carrier? This is critical info for my decision…to transfer expiring Citi TY points – Singapore or Turkish…

  7. Based on the comments I’m reading here, is it correct to assume that one way awards are possible? i.e. it’s 45K miles from USA to Europe in biz class?

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