Editors Note: Today’s piece was scheduled for publishing 2+ weeks ago and the timing has nothing to do with recent events in the region. We apologize for the unfortunate timing.

After having spent two days in Istanbul a few months ago, I’ve become a little obsessed with Turkey. I fell in love with the city, the people, and, of course, the food. After I came back, I decided I need to figure out the best ways to get there with points and miles to see the rest of the country ASAP.

Oludeniz lagoon, Oludeniz, Turkey

There are so many historical treasures to explore since turkey has been the crossroads of civilizations for millenia. The country also has many stunning natural wonders, from the rocky wonderland of Cappadocia to crystal-blue pools and cascading travertine terraces of Pamukkale.

Watching colorful hot air balloons flying over the valley at Cappadocia, Turkey

Denizli, Turkey - Pamukkale-Hierapolis; Barefooted walking through the pools. It is recognized as a World Heritage Sites together with Hierapolis. It is located in Turkey's Inner Aegean region, in the River Menderes valley, which has a temperate climate for most of the year

Fortunately, there are a few good ways to get there without breaking the bank. In this article, we’ll look at five best ways to get to Turkey with points and miles. Four out of five loyalty programs mentioned here don’t have nonstop flights to Turkey from the U.S. This is where knowing airline alliances and partnerships comes in handy.

Air Canada Aeroplan

Air Canada doesn’t have direct flights to Turkey. However, because it’s a member of Star Alliance, we can use Air Canada miles to book award flights with other carriers using its loyalty program Aeroplan.

These are one-way award rates on Aeroplan:

Economy Class37,500 miles
Premium Economy45,000 miles
Business Class57,500 miles
First Class80,000 miles

Aeroplan passes on surcharges from several Star Alliance partners. However, award tickets booked on airlines such as SWISS and United will only come with the standard taxes and fees. You can fly on Turkish Airlines flights from several U.S. gateways, or with a layover in Europe on one of the European carriers. Because Aeroplan passes on surcharges, always look for an itinerary on a carrier with low surcharges.

Turkish Airlines

How to Book with Aeroplan

Aeroplan’s very straightforward search engine is easy to use. In order to search for award tickets, you’ll first need to create an Aeroplan account. After you’ve created your account, login and click on Book travel, then select Flights. From there, you can search for one-way or round-trip award availability.

Pro-tip: I always prefer to book two one-way tickets if a program allows to book one-way awards. If my plans change, I’ll have more flexibility. However, keep in mind that if you have to cancel the whole trip or change both flights, you’ll be on the hook for two separate change fees.

You’ll see the results on the next page. It’s very easy to toggle back and forth between economy and premium cabins – just click on the Economy/Premium drop-down menu.

Click on DETAILS to see the flight schedule then click SELECT on the right to see the surcharges.

If your dates are flexible, click on the Availability Calendar on the right to see an entire week.

How to Earn Aeroplan Miles

The TD Bank co-branded Aeroplan card only earns 1X miles on most purchases and isn’t very useful for most people.

However, there are quite a few ways to earn Aeroplan miles. Aeroplan is a transfer partner of American Express and Membership Rewards points can be transferred to Aeroplan at a 1:1 rate. From time to time, you might see a transfer bonus from American Express to Aeroplan. Amex points can be earned with many personal and business cards.

Capital One is also one of Aeroplan’s credit card transfer partners. Miles earned with the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card and Capital One® Spark® Miles for Business card can be transferred at a rate of 2:1.5.

Marriott Bonvoy points also transfer to Aeroplan. For every 60,000 Marriott points, you will receive 5,000 Aeroplan bonus miles for a total of 25,000 miles.

Cards to Help You Earn More Aeroplan Miles

American Express offers several cards that can help you earn points quickly thanks to its useful bonus categories and generous welcome bonuses, including the American Express Gold Card and the Blue Business Plus Card from American Express.

Capital One Venture Rewards card comes with a good welcome bonus and earns points that can be transferred to Aeroplan.

American Airlines

American Airlines doesn’t fly to Turkey but is a part of the Oneworld alliance. American has a region-based chart for Oneworld partners and considers Turkey to be part of Europe.

These are one-way award rates on American Airlines:

Economy Class Off Peak22,500 miles
Economy Class30,000 miles
Business Class57,500 miles
First Class85,000 miles

The taxes and fees will depend on the partner airline. For example, your fees will be minimal if you fly Royal Jordanian but very high if you fly British Airways.

Royal Jordanian Airlines

How to Book with American Airlines

It’s very easy to search for award space with American Airlines. You don’t even need to log in or create an account to search. You will need to create an account and log in later if you want to see the taxes and fees. Just plug in your trip details, check the box next to Redeem miles and click search.

You’ll see one week’s availability on the next screen. If you have flexible dates, click on Show Full Calendar. It’s also very easy to switch between economy, business and first class on this screen.

You’ll see available awards on the next screen. Select the itinerary that works for you, and you’ll be prompted to login to see the taxes and fees.

How to Earn American Airlines Miles

American Airlines miles can be earned in a few ways. American has a very good shopping portal, so if you are doing shopping for the holidays, birthdays or even everyday essentials, make sure to check the portal before you shop. The portal often offers great spending bonuses, especially around holidays or back to school days. By strategically using the shopping portal bonuses, it’s possible to earn thousands of miles on things you buy anyway.

American Airlines is also a transfer partner of Marriott Bonvoy, and 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points will transfer for 25,000 American miles. Unless you need to top off your AA account for an award, I wouldn’t recommend transferring Bonvoy points to American Airlines as there are other ways to earn AA miles.

Two banks offer co-branded American Airlines miles cards: Citi and Barclays. Both banks have personal and business credit cards that earn American Airlines miles.

Cards to Help You Earn More American Airlines Miles

Citi Bank offers the Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard. The welcome bonus fluctuates between 40,000 to 75,000 AAdvantage miles. The card earns 2X on American Airlines purchases, gas stations and restaurants and 1X on everything else.

The AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard from Barclays regularly offers a welcome bonus between 50,000 and 60,00 American miles. The card earns 2X on American Airlines purchases and 1X on everything else.

You can get both of these cards but you might want to wait until you’re no longer eligible for cards issued by Chase.

Avianca LifeMiles

LifeMiles is a loyalty program of Avianca, Colombia’s national carrier. There’s no award chart anymore and the redemption rates could be a bit all over the place. However, there are still some exceptionally good deals that could be booked with Avianca LifeMiles. Avianca is part of Star Alliance and doesn’t pass on fuel surcharges, so you’ll just have to pay very reasonable taxes.

There is a $25 award booking fee, even if you book online.

The lowest amount of miles you’ll need for one-way in economy is 30,000 LifeMiles. Interestingly enough, the lowest award rates are on Star Alliance carriers and include domestic connections. I’ve searched for awards on Turkish Airlines nonstop flights in economy from Chicago ORD to Istanbul and the best I could find was 44,500 miles.

However, when I searched for award from Cleveland to Istanbul, I found Star Alliance flights for 30,000 miles. This is great news for those of us near secondary airports!

Business class flights could be booked for as little as 63,000 miles.

So if you have some flexibility or have a choice of airports, it’s worth checking out multiple dates and more than one departure airport. Unfortunately, LifeMiles won’t show all the Star Alliance flights you can potentially see on United or Aeroplan, but there are still plenty of good finds.

How to Book with Avianca LifeMiles

Avianca recently revamped its site, making the search function more intuitive. You will need to create an account to search and book flights.

Pro tip: make sure to create and save a PIN number in your profile or you won’t be able to book awards online.

You can also book tickets for other people, and to make the process a little easier, you can add a travel companion in your profile ahead of time.

To search for award space, navigate to LifeMiles, login and click Fly. Enter your departure and destination airports and click on the blue arrow. LifeMiles allows booking one way awards.

The calendar will be displayed on the next page. Click on the date to see available award space.

You’ll see results and the handy five-day calendar on the next screen.

Avianca has an option to book with miles and cash. This could be a good option if you are just a few miles short. I happened to have some miles in my account, so Avianca offered me to pay the difference in cash.

How to Earn Avianca LifeMiles

There are lots of great ways to earn Lifemiles. Avianca is a transfer partner of all major transferable currencies. Citi ThankYou points and American Express Membership Rewards points transfer at a 1:1 rate and the transfer is generally instant.

Capital One miles transfer at a 2:1.5 rate. Marriott Bonvoy is also a transfer partner. 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points will transfer for 25,000 LifeMiles, including Bonvoy’s 5,000 miles bonus.

There are two co-branded Avianca credit cards issued by Banco Popular, but it’s not recommended to get them if you are under 5/24.

Avianca often sells miles with huge bonuses, sometimes as much as 140% bonus! And unlike other airlines and hotels, Avianca processes the points sales itself. So if you have a card that earns 3X or 5X on airline purchases, this is a great opportunity to earn thousands of miles with little effort. If you purchase miles with a good bonus, you can often fly one-way in business class for less than $1,000.

Cards to Help You Earn More Avianca LifeMiles

American Express has a number of cards that can help you earn points quickly. The Platinum Card from American Express has a generous welcome bonus and earns 5X on purchases made directly with the airline. This is a great card to use if you are buying LifeMiles on sale.

Capital One Venture Rewards card comes with a good welcome bonus and earns miles that can be transferred to Avianca.

Watch out for transfer bonuses from Amex, Capital One, and Citi. A transfer bonus can make already great redemption rates even more affordable.

Air France-KLM Flying Blue

KLM Flying BLue

KLM and Air France have a combined loyalty program called Flying Blue. You can search for award space on either site, but I prefer the interface on KLM.

Flying Blue doesn’t have an official award chart anymore, just public saver level award rates. You can enter your origin and destination airports into Flying Blue’s Miles Price Estimator to see saver level rates. While the rates can vary widely by route and depend on demand for tickets, you can expect to need at least 21,500 Flying Blue miles for a one-way award flight in economy and 53,000 miles one-way in business class.

How to Book Award Flights with KLM Flying Blue Miles

To search on KLM, you will have to create an account first. After logging in, click on Flying Blue on the top right.

Go to Spend Miles then Buy a ticket with Miles

Plug in-flight information and, if your schedule is flexible, put a checkmark where it says You are looking for a flight around these dates. Even if you only have very little flexibility, checking that box might be useful to see what kinds of awards come up.

You’ll see a whole month’s worth of availability on the next screen, as well as surcharges. Flying Blue does pass on the surcharges, but as you can see, they are quite reasonable.

Click on your desired date to see all the awards available on that date.

How to Earn Flying Blue Miles

Flying Blue is a transfer partner of all major transferable currencies. Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards points transfer at a 1:1 rate to Flying Blue and the transfers are generally instant. You can also transfer Capital One miles at a 2:1.5 ratio.

Marriott Bonvoy points transfer to Flying Blue at 3:1 rate. When you transfer 60,000 Marriott points you will receive 5,000 bonus miles. So effectively, you can transfer 60,000 Marriott points for 25,000 Flying Blue miles.

Cards to Help You Earn More Flying Blue Miles

Flying Blue is a transfer partner of all major credit cards so it’s fairly easy to earn a good stash of Flying Blue miles. Chase has a few excellent Ultimate Rewards earning cards, including the perennial favorites like Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Capital One Venture card also earns valuable miles that can be transferred to Flying Blue and comes with a good signup bonus.

Citi Premier is a great card for everyday use with a generous welcome bonus and great bonus spending categories.

Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles

Just a few months ago I flew on Turkish Airlines from Seoul to Istanbul and it is now my favorite airline. The food, the service, the cabin comfort – all were excellent.

Turkish Airlines has nonstop flights from the following North American cities:

  • Boston
  • New York, JFK
  • Washington, DC (IAD)
  • Atlanta
  • Miami
  • Houston
  • Chicago
  • Los Angeles
  • San Francisco
  • Mexico City
  • Montreal
  • Toronto

Turkish has a region-based award chart and has excellent redemption rates to North America.

These are one-way award rates on Turkish Airlines:

Economy Class30,000 miles
Business Class45,000 miles
First Class 67,500 miles

How to Book with Miles&Smiles

To search for Turkish-operated flights navigate to Turkish Airlines and create an account. After you’ve created an account, click on Award ticket – buy a ticket with Miles and you’ll be taken to the next screen where you can plug in your flight details. You can search for one-way or round- trip awards.

And this is the actual screen where we can enter our flight information and start searching for an award flight.

The search results on the next screen will show the available award space and the mileage required.

Turkish makes it easy to switch between economy and business class. Just click on the Business Class tab to see available award space.

If you have flexible dates, there’s a handy calendar view. Just switch from the Show flights for chosen dates to Show flights for the whole week tab.

Click the desired dates to move onto the next step. You will have to have the required number of Miles&Smiles miles in your account to proceed to the actual booking screen.

Turkish Airlines passes on fuel surcharges of about $200 one-way.

Turkish Airlines is part of Star Alliance. To search for Star Alliance award space, click on your name on the top of the page, then Miles Transactions.

This is a relatively new feature of the website and it’s still buggy and unreliable. It’s possible to book Star Alliance tickets on the phone but be careful with fuel surcharges. The surcharges on some Star Alliance carriers, like Austrian and Lufthansa, can run into hundreds of dollars.

How to Earn Miles&Smiles Miles

The best way to earn Turkish Miles&Smiles miles is by transferring Citi ThankYou points that could be earned with Citi Premier and Citi Prestige cards. The points transfer at a 1:1 rate and the transfer usually takes 1-2 days. You can put the award ticket on hold for 48 hours while you wait for the points to transfer to Turkish Airlines.

Marriott Bonvoy points also transfer to Turkish Miles&Smiles. For every 60,000 Marriott points, you will receive 5,000 Miles&Smiles bonus miles for a total of 25,000 miles. The transfer time could be more than 3 days.

Cards to Help You Earn More Turkish Miles&Smiles Miles

Citi Premier and Citi Prestige cards both earn ThankYou points. Citi Premier is a great card for everyday use with a generous welcome bonus and great bonus spending categories, such as travel, dining and entertainment

Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card earns Marriott Bonvoy points that can be transferred to many airlines, including Turkish Airlines.

Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey

Final Thoughts

There are lots of great and affordable ways to get to Turkey with points and miles. You won’t break your miles “bank” getting there and because it’s such an affordable destination, the entire trip could be done very inexpensively. So go explore ancient treasures, enjoy Turkey’s beautiful cities and eat lots of delicious food!

Travel well,

Anna