Turkish Miles and Smiles Only “Sucks” If You’re Lazy

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Turkish booking issues

Turkish Booking Issues: The Best Awards Require Work

Last week Mark penned a piece laying out why the Turkish Miles & Smiles “sweet spot” for domestic awards really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Actually, he said it downright “sucks,” which takes things a whole lot further. There are definitely some issues with booking Turkish awards, but I think Mark’s assessment is completely wrong.

If you like awards to be easy, then maybe you’ll concur with his reasoning. However, as long as you’re willing to put in some legwork, you can get extremely good value out of Miles & Smiles. The Turkish domestic award sweet spot is one of the best award deals uncovered in 2019, with a shout out to Nick at Frequent Miler for first covering it.

The Incredible Value of Turkish Miles & Smiles

When I first read that you could ticket an award from anywhere in the United States to Hawaii for just 7,500 miles, I about jumped out of my chair. For many folks, especially those on the East Coast or tied to regional airports like I am, this is incredible. I had to look into this loyalty program I had previously ignored and figure out a couple awards myself.

I ended up booking a few different tickets, with a combined value of over $3,000. These included a premium cabin lie-flat round-trip to Newark, just to show that you could score a lie-flat seat for 12,500 Turkish Miles & Smiles, and a last-minute one-way economy ticket to Hawaii. I’ve also now burnt 15,000 Miles & Smiles on positioning tickets to LAX, which has let me take advantage of a couple amazing sales.

Here is the value I received for 47,500 Miles & Smiles, less than one Citi Premier card bonus:

  • $502 – One-way to Hawaii for 7,500 Miles & Smiles
  • $2,405 – Round-trip to Newark in lie-flat seats both ways for 25,000 Miles & Smiles
  • $217 – One-way flight to LAX for 7,500 Miles & Smiles
  • $222 – One-way flight to LAX for 7,500 Miles & Smiles

With domestic awards (including Hawaii and Alaska) available for 7,500/12,500 miles in economy/business, and business class tickets to Europe for just 45,000 miles, there are some very nice sweet spots on the Turkish award chart. It’s a program well worth considering, and it is by far the best Citi ThankYou airline transfer partner.

Enjoying this sunset was made possible by Miles & Smiles

Turkish Has It’s Downsides

But not everything has been easy, that is for sure. There have been Turkish booking issues from the get-go. The program is definitely a bit frustrating to deal with at times, I won’t deny that. In the process of signing up for Miles & Smiles, I discovered that you could actually book awards online. The interface is certainly clunky and incomplete, but Turkish now has the functionality.

Calling used to be an excellent back up option, but that went by the wayside, and I don’t know if it will be back. Now the online functionality is a bit better, at least.

My last ticket required an email to a Turkish office and then a call to finish booking, since what I needed couldn’t be done online. But this was about 10 minutes by email with a single back-and-forth exchange and two phone calls. Total investment: 30 minutes. I’m willing to stomach that to book an award for 7,500 Miles & Smiles instead of 12,500 United miles.

Yet even with these hurdles, I’m undeterred when it comes to these awards, given the value. Actually, I’m happy that Miles & Smiles awards aren’t easy to book.

Turkish booking issues

Why the Best Awards Should Require Work

I’m honestly glad that there are still awards out there that require a substantial legwork to book. If everyone could book Miles & Smiles awards for 7,500 miles each way for domestic tickets, the sweet spot would quickly go by the wayside.

If all loyalty programs were as easy to use as Southwest RapidRewards, United MileagePlus, or Delta SkyMiles, then everyone would be booking awards. Each of these programs now uses a revenue-based or psuedo-revenue-based approach to award tickets. The charts have been tossed out. Things cost what they cost, and deals are harder to find.

I do not see a problem with the difficulty of using Miles & Smiles. It’s a feature, not a bug. The barrier to entry means that anyone without a tolerance for putting in some work for an award ticket simply won’t use the program, and therefore won’t book any awards.

Mark penned “maybe I am too damn lazy” when it comes to Turkish awards. I’m certainly not. But there are probably more people who feel the way he does than concur with me.

Sure, there is a level of frustration when you can’t get things done quickly, or you have a representative tell you to call back later because they can’t finish your transaction, or the award you can find at united.com isn’t available with Turkish. I’m willing to bear with this. If you don’t put in the legwork, you won’t reap the rewards.

Some people can’t stand picking up the phone to book an award. I’d also much rather complete my entire transaction online. But sometimes connecting to an agent over the phone is a must, and it does not deter me. I’ll keep booking my Turkish awards by email. Mark and most other people won’t.

Or Maybe I Just Have a High Pain Tolerance

All this being said, I thrive on studying award programs and researching their sweet spots. Things like figuring out the best ways to extract immense value from the United Excursionist Perk are what I do in my spare time. This is likely not the typical person’s interest and likely the reason I’m far more willing to bear with the Turkish booking issues over the past few months. Or maybe I simply like the challenge and “thrill of the chase”.

I’m all-in on quirky partner miles currencies. I’d much rather burn 60,000 Citi ThankYou points on four round-trip award tickets within the U.S. than 100,000 United miles. Plus, with the switch to variable United award pricing, currencies like LifeMiles and Miles & Smiles will become all that more valuable for domestic awards.

Until the inevitable devaluation, whether fairly soon or quite a ways off, you’ll find me putting as much spend as I can on our Citi DoubleCash and Citi ThankYou Premier cards to accrue points to transfer to Miles & Smiles. It’s the best award “discovery” of the year.

Maybe I’ll plan another cross-country flight in Polaris for 12,500 Miles & Smiles.

I’ll Keep Overlooking the Turkish Booking Issues

Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles may be a painful program to deal with if you expect award bookings to be easy. But the value is absolutely worth the work required. I flew a transcontinental lie-flat seat for just over a third of what United would have charged me. I won’t let anyone tell me (especially Mark) that this wasn’t worth spending 30 minutes on the phone to book. Push through the Turkish booking issues and get some amazing awards ticketed!

Knowing how to burn your miles is just as important as knowing how to earn them. With few manufactured spending opportunities available to me (due to where I live), being able to use incredible award deals like the Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles domestic sweet spot is all that more important.

Mark can keep on ignoring Miles & Smiles. More awards for the rest of us.

Miles to Memories has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Miles to Memories and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.

Ian Snyder
After igniting his passion for award travel while planning his honeymoon, Ian now enjoys using points and miles to see the world with his wife and three internationally adopted kiddos. He loves dissecting loyalty programs to find maximum value. His goal is to demonstrate that extraordinary travel is possible for the ordinary family.

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9 COMMENTS

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9 COMMENTS

  1. @Ian- How can you be ok with the surcharges? Im with mark on this one. I do admit the transcon and hawaii is awesome for you east-coasters, but the surchargers are just too much. Even for transcon. West coaster got nothing great, maybe biz on new zealand to europe with no surcharges but tax are still $300 and they are ehhh biz class.. its nothing to write home bout. More awards for you, way to expensive for me.. I fly $100 transcon or $200 roundtrip.

    • Turkish only passes on surcharges on carriers that charge them, which shouldn’t be the case for any United awards, and it certainly isn’t true for domestic. If you’re looking to book Lufthansa business class, then you’ll be hit with $100s.

      • Ok, I guess im bias against UA and if Polaris domestic doesnt have surcharges then its not a bad redemption. But would you consider this the sweet spot for Turkish?

  2. @ Ian — Turkish Miles and Smiles Only “Sucks” if you value your time at 50 cents per hour. Surely, you have something better to do?

    • Of course I do! But come now, it’s not that bad.

      Supposing I spend 30 more minutes on a Turkish booking and save 5,000 points/miles in the process, valuing these at 2.0 cents each, I just saved myself $100. So, more realistically, I value my time at $200/hour? 🙂

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