A Frequent Flyer Program You Should Learn About With Some of the Cheapest Premium Awards Out There

As US frequent flyer programs devalue, I’ve consistently written that we should consider looking abroad. There are tons of programs in the world, and not only do many of them provide great value some of them are getting even better rather than worse. Many of those are viable options, although usually not perfect substitutes, for US programs.

Yesterday I wrote about several options for crediting United flights to continue to earn full miles (for people not chasing United’s status) even after they make mileage-earning for flights credited to MileagePlus revenue-based.

Today I’m going to take a closer look at Turkish Miles&Smiles, which:

  • Gives you 100% of miles flown on United on all paid fares when crediting to their program, regardless of fare class.
  • Offers status matches, even to United elites. So showing your Turkish Gold card gets you United Club access even when flying domestically.
  • Has a fantastic award chart, tons of great deals, miles go farther than they do in most programs.

The Fantastic Turkish Award Chart With Prices You Want to Know About

Early announcements back in March about what the ‘new’ Turkish Miles&Smiles would look like had me concerned. Airlines don’t tell you that their programs are changing in indeterminate ways they won’t share details of when those changes are going to be good for members.

But the New Turkish Miles&Smiles is much better than I expected.

Business class:

  • US-Europe is 45,000 each way
  • US-Middle East 47,000
  • US-Central Asia 52,500
  • US-North Africa 52,500
  • US domestic 2-cabin first class on United is 15,000 miles each way
  • The new award chart shows a single region for ‘North America’ suggesting that Hawaii awards should be the same price (US East Coast – Hawaii for 30,000 miles roundtrip in first class, and charging the same price Hawaii – Europe or Africa as New York to those destinations) unless the new chart is simply incomplete? (Update: Hawaii is listed under Oceania – thanks apk123!)

    First class:

    • US-North Africa is 73,000 each way
    • US-Middle East 69,500
    • US-Central Asia 69,500
    • US-Europe 67,500

    The upgrade chart is also interesting. You can upgrade on any fare with Turkish. It’s not cheap in points to do so, e.g. US – Istanbul is 45,000 miles. Adding a connection though is cheap — while Instanbul – Central Asia is 25,000 miles on its own to upgrade, US – Central Asia is just 52,500 (a small increment over flying to Istanbul).

    Get a Status Match

    I’ve been sharing details of the Turkish Airlines status match offer for two years.

    They will frequently, although inconsistently, match elite status if you have comparable status on another airline. The really unique thing is that they won’t just match status of airlines in competitor alliances, there are also plenty of reports of their matching United status too.

    If you have elite status that’s comparable to Star Alliance Gold, Skyteam Elite Plus or Oneworld Emerald they will consider a match for you.

    Bizarrely, it can take a couple of months for Turkish to process the match. They used to accept requests via email but do not any longer and ignore these email requests.

    Instead, once you have a Miles&Smiles account, log in and choose the web contact form. Select that your question pertains to Miles&Smiles, request a match of your current status, and upload a screen shot of your current competing status and a scan of your membership card.

    Status lasts for 2 years and once you get Gold you only need 25,000 qualifying miles in a single year or just 37,500 miles within two years to re-qualify. You can even purchase 10,000 of the 37,500 miles you need to re-up.

    Here is more on airline status matches.

    Downsides to Turkish Miles&Smiles for U.S.-Based Members

    1. They add fuel surcharges to awards when those would apply to a paid ticket, so this mitigates the value of the program (United doesn’t add fuel surcharges at all).
    2. There are limited options for a US member to earn miles outside of flying.
    3. Earning rates could change. All frequent flyer programs could change so there are never guarantees. But if United’s earning rates change in the future, you could be left with relatively few easy ways to top off an account.
    4. Miles expire. At the end of the third full year after a mile has been earned, and the only way to extend validity (for another 3 years) is at a cost of 1 euro cent per point [10 euros per 1000 miles].

    Other Ways to Earn Miles

    Through June 30 Turkish has a 50% bonus on purchased miles that lets you buy miles at 1.8 cents apiece.

    Turkish Airlines has plenty of partners… if you leave in the vicinity of Turkey. But a US resident isn’t going to have access to their co-brand credit card. They don’t participate as a points transfer partner of the major transfer currencies US residents have access to (Chase, American Express, Starwood). So most of your points with Turkish will be earned by flying.

    They do partner with several hotel chains like Hilton, Best Western, and Wyndham.

    And they partner with the major car rental companies.

    I still think that Singapore Airlines Krisflyer is the best option for many, despite fuel surcharges and 3 year mileage expiration, because of the ability to transfer in points via American Express, Chase, and Starwood. But for some this could be a great option.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Thanks! This is very helpful. One question – do Turkish miles expire?

    Chase / Amex if you are reading – add the Turks to your cards!

  2. @Levy Flight – they do, and I thought I had included it, somehow I left out the bullet but added it to the downsides above. They are similar to Singapore in this regard. Points expire at the end of the 3rd full year after collection, and you can extend for another 3 years at a cost of 1 euro cent per point.

  3. Great. I really like Turkish -flew then biz to Africa earlier this year. Very nice service. Hope they start flying to SFO some time soon.

  4. Fair Warning, Turkey’s Customer Care is horrendous Avianica levels of bad. Just a heads up to people.

  5. Thanks Gary. How do you book partner awards on TK? Presumably this chart is now active, would you just call to book?

  6. So you could flat out buy a PHL to SFO business class ticket for $270 with the buy miles promo? Seems nice to me.

  7. Gary, Honolulu is listed under the “Oceania” region so your theory about Hawaii falls through.

  8. Hi Gary, I’m flying a paid business class ticket on Air Canada in a couple months. I used to credit all Star Alliance flights to my US Airways account (my primary domestic airline), but now with the move to Oneworld, I’m up in the air as to what to do with this ticket.

    I was thinking of crediting to Lifemiles, but it just occurred to me that I’m elite with Turkish because I did the status match a few months ago, and now I’m reconsidering. Any thoughts?

  9. Hi Gary, maybe you should do similar piece on Avianca, also seems interesting program…

  10. @Miro – Avianca doesn’t credit 100% on the majority of United’s affordable fares. There is no benefit to crediting flights to AV over UA essentially, unless there is a desire to obtain AV status. You could look this information up easily on lifemiles.com, instead of expecting a blogger to do that for you.

  11. Per Ananth’s comment…I think they’re dopey. Application claims I have an existing membership, even when I change the email address. (Not sure if this is true.) Emailed them an inquiry, but getting auto-reply to contact via website. I do a website inquiry about my membership, but have to enter my (non-existent) membership number to send the inquiry. Stuck in a bad catch-22 situation. Ridiculous.

  12. Warning: As others have said, TK customer service SUCKS, mediocre at best. Flying with them is ok IF everything goes as planned, but quickly goes south with irrops/delays/whatnot. Sure the lounge at IST is good, but if you are flying USA-Europe you have to tack on a stop in IST and add 3-5 more hours flight time to backtrack to Europe. Partner awards only through phone, which is a trying experience. Gary you should put a disclaimer up there if anyone wants to venture with TK! Is it worth it? I lean slightly on the “no” side of maybe.

  13. @Andrew as I observe above I agree that phone customer service is quite the experience. You do not have to fly via Istanbul though, they are a Star Alliance member, your miles can be used on the same airlines that United’s can be (they’ve eliminated the separate discounted chart for Turkish-only flying). TK does give you a free hotel room if booking a forced overnight in Istanbul regardless of class of service though, which is nice 🙂

  14. @Francis Underwood I did the work in yesterday’s post.

    I explain that W fares and above are credited at 100% flown miles, below that is 50%.

    And I explained when you come out ahead even crediting 50% flown miles to a program other than United starting next March.

    A W fare is not the cheapest, it’s on the low side of mid-price, some people find themselves paying these regularly and will do better crediting those to a program like Lifemiles than the MileagePlus if they aren’t going for status.

    But if you’re looking just at the cheapies, then most fares are going to earn 100% in Turkish and Singapore, I like Singapore because of the ability to top off accounts from so many other programs (despite 3 year expiration of miles).

  15. @Andrew have you considered Aegean, you don’t mention the route so I don’t know how many miles and i don’t know your booking class but it’s conceivable you could earn lifetime (until the rules change and must credit a flight every 3 years) star gold off one trip. The miles won’t be that useful, really. Otherwise I would consider a program other than Turkish most likely because you can earn full miles plus bonuses in lots of programs, you don’t want to strand your miles. Focus on a program you can top off from other sources (like Singapore, if you’ll burn the miles within 3 years, or like Lifemiles since you can buy miles there to top off).

  16. Have you reviewed Turkish First Class or Business? Any idea of the quality of seats, food, service, etc?

  17. @Marsten – Turkish no longer offers first class. That was something they had only when they were leasing 777s from Jet Airways. The new inflight product is great. But they have a real mix of seats in the fleet, so depends what you’re booked onto..

  18. @Marsten, nope they aren’t going revenue-based earn. On the contrary, like most programs in the world they award miles based on distance with a multiplier driven by fare class (now, and through February 2014, that’s what United does). Like most European and Asian programs they given less than 100% miles on discount economy tickets…. on their own aircraft.

  19. Yes, but it appears this is new on TK as I recently traveled on P and W classes and was awarded 100% miles but that is now down to 25%. Any idea if this (and any other changes)is new? It appears likely to me, given the “New Era in Miles&Smiles” hoopla.

  20. Thanks this is really helpful. Your old article mentions TK award would allow open jaw or stopover and up to eights segments. Are these still applied to new program? Does TK has the annoying backtracking rule like US dividend? For example Will TK allow Lax-IST-Lhr? Does annual 10k purchase miles count to requalify Star Gold?

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