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.
- 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!)
- 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
- 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).
- There are limited options for a US member to earn miles outside of flying.
- 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.
- 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.
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- US-North Africa is 73,000 each way