Review: Home2Suites by Hilton Nashville Bellevue

Home2Suites Nashville Bellevue

After spending four months in a hotel this year already, staying in another one was not necessarily at the top of my list. After all, I needed to get my house back together after the fire. But I have mostly accomplished that and after having to cancel my fall vacation to Hawaii I really wanted to go somewhere. I normally would have been to Nashville in May and June for Mothers Day and Fathers Day but was told by my parents not to visit then. But now, as things are starting to get better in our part of the country, we all felt it was fine for me to come up for a long weekend. I decided to stay long enough to visit my ski club friends at the monthly membership meeting on Tuesday night. (Side note: the Nashville Ski Club generally meets the first Tuesday of each month. Check out the website if you’re interested!)

When I’d last visited my family at Christmas I’d tried to stay at the Home2Suites in the Bellevue area of town, which is the southwestern part of the city. However, despite having made reservations, when I was double-checking as the time approached I saw the hotel wasn’t going to be open in time. Hilton never notified me and I just wonder how many people arrived to find they had nowhere to stay. The hotel did eventually open in February, just in time for the pandemic to arrive.

Since I was going to be working all day Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday morning, I was hoping the the Home2Suites would be better suited for this than the Hampton Inn. While the Hampton was fine, I had tried to work there once and found the desk chair was completely unsuited for extensive time at the desk and I had wi-fi issues then too, even though I’d not noticed them on previous visits.

Home2Suites is one of Hilton’s limited service brands. Breakfast is provided each day though there is no restaurant. The rooms have a kitchenette though it does not include a cooktop like the Homewood Suites does. But it has enough plates and silverware to last several days along with a microwave and full-sized refrigerator so it makes staying here several weeks a viable option, especially if there’s no Homewood Suites in the area. In this part of town there are only three hotels total (the Microtel Suites is the other one) so if you’re looking to use or accumulate points and you’re going to stay awhile, I can recommend the Home2Suites.

I chose to pay for this stay using a combination of points and cash, assuming I’d earn points for the portion of the stay I paid for.  Well, I did get points for the charge on my credit card but I did not earn points otherwise.  Next time I do something like this I’ll make two separate reservations to be sure I earn points!

Location

The hotel is located in One Bellevue Place, a large shopping area, so it’s not the most scenic location. But that means there are lots of shops and restaurants in walking distance as well as couple of grocery stores. The Ford Ice Center is located here as well though it would be a fairly long walk, especially if you were carrying ice skating or hockey gear.

There is a small covered area to park while checking in and unloading your bags. There are a few spots in front of and across from the hotel but there are many more spots behind the hotel. All parking in the area is free.

Lobby

The lobby is a bright and inviting area with seating on each side that would normally be used during breakfast. While I didn’t see signs prohibiting eating or congregating in the lobby, breakfast was advertised as grab-n-go so it was clear they preferred it if you’d eat in your room.

The front desk is directly ahead upon entering and each of the three check-in stations had large plexiglass partitions in front of them. In addition, a long, narrow table had been pushed in front of the desk to keep you an extra couple of feet back. Associates all wore masks and most of them at least knew how to wear them properly though if the lobby was empty it was not uncommon to see a couple of them talking behind the desks with their masks pulled down. In general they’d pull them back up to speak with guests. With so much space and a plexiglass barrier between us it was not really an issue but with all the extra signage that has been added to ensure social distancing you’d think they’d realize that the masks need to be on all the time. That being said I must confess that the first day I walked down to breakfast without my mask. Just totally forgot it and left it in the room. I left it sitting by my car keys and had I been leaving the building I would have remembered it but since all I needed was my room key I just totally goofed up. I was horrified when I reached the lobby and realized what I’d done. There were no recriminations and they offered me a free mask right away. I sure didn’t forget again!

I was welcomed warmly by Lloyd, who seemed to be one of the more senior members of the team. He thanked me for my Diamond status (earned the hard way this year) and got me checked in quickly. I was given a room on the fourth (top) floor near the end of the hall.

There was never an issue of having to ride the elevator with anyone else while I was there. Signs in the elevator lobby encourage folks to ride separately with only the folks in your own room.

Fourth Floor Elevator Lobby

The hotel retains a bit of the “new hotel smell” and the decor is all fresh-looking, as it should be with a 6-month-old hotel.

Fourth Floor Hallway

Guest Room

I had read about the seals that Hilton puts on guest room doors to let you know that no one has been in the room since it was serviced and was told that if the seal was not on my door or if it was broken I should notify the front desk. The seal was intact on my room and it was fairly easy to remove the sticker. While I suspect it would not be impossible to remove and reattach the sticker, mine did not seem to have been tampered with.

Guest Room Door with Seal

I entered my room to find it was quite chilly. Apparently someone in Hilton management had been reading my complaints that some hotels did not allow the a/c to be turned down low enough so they pre-set my room to 65F! While it was appreciated, it was not necessary. While I do like to sleep in a very cool room, I prefer it a more normal 72F-74F during the day. Fortunately the thermostat was easy to locate and operate.

The room is a slightly modified version of a standard hotel room layout: a small entry hall with the bathroom on one side and the bed area beyond. But in this case the kitchenette is directly opposite the bathroom. The closet is at the far end of the room across from the bed. The desk and sofa are situated between the kitchenette/bathroom area and the bed area.

Bedroom Area

The comfortable king-sized bed is located at the far end of the room and can be somewhat partitioned off by a large curtain (seen in green in the photo). While this obviously doesn’t help with noise from the TV it would at least keep that area dark if one person was up and the other was in bed.  This room had a nightstand on one side and a table on the other.  The night stand had both electrical outlets and USB ports right on the front side, which was great. The night stand itself could stand to be a little larger as if you try to put both your tablet and your phone on it you’re going to have to put one on top of the other and the tablet will extend past the edge of the night stand, making it easy to accidentally hit when turning over or getting in/out of bed.  The table on the far side did not have any built-in outlets.  There was an outlet on the wall which the lamp used so that did mean one outlet was available but you had to reach behind the table to access it.  Not a big deal for me as I wasn’t sharing the room but might be annoying if there are two folks trying to charge two devices each.

Directly across from the bed was counter space with an area below it that I found handy for placing my empty suitcase as well as a cabinet that held some of the linens for the sleeper sofa. The closet, which had a sort of heavy-duty curtain as a door, was against the far wall. The HVAC unit was directly under the window though the thermostat was located in the entry area. My room was on the same side as the main entrance and faced the shops on the other side of the drive.

Living Area

The sleeper sofa is on the same wall as the bed and it reminded me very much of the one from the Homewood Suites. My main complaint about these sofas is that they only have a double bed so they’re not very wide. That means it’s uncomfortable to try to lay on the sofa unless you’re quite short. The ottoman is large but it would still mean you’d have to sit up on the sofa to stretch your legs out on it. Maybe I’m just weird in that I prefer to stretch out all the way.

The large flat-screen TV could be swiveled so that it could be viewed from either the bed or the sofa. It sat atop a cabinet with shelves on one side and drawers on the other. I think if this cabinet was installed in other hotels the side with shelves might be used for the mini-fridge.

The drawers were not particularly large but for my short stay they were more than adequate.

I was glad to see the cleaning process extended to the TV remote. Often when I’m in hotels I never even turn on the TV but I did use it during this visit. However I do wish the channels were more like the ones at the Homewood Suites in Steamboat and included Animal Planet and ION Television. Pro sports were still fairly limited during my visit but I didn’t see an option for the regional FOX Sports channels that would allow guests to watch Predators hockey and Grizzlies basketball.

Beside the TV cabinet was where I spent most of my non-sleeping time in the room and I was impressed by the thought that went into this design.

As you can see the counter stretches from the TV cabinet towards the kitchen. However that counter is too high to be used as a desk. Instead this oval table on wheels is tucked beneath it. The table doesn’t slide fully under the counter but that’s OK. I had brought my wireless keyboard and mouse along with my laptop so I was able to put the laptop on the counter – making it essentially a monitor at eye level – and have the mouse and keyboard on the table. (I didn’t have the table pulled out as far as it is in the photo.) And I was very pleased to see a proper desk chair. It had good lower back support and its height could be adjusted. All of this made it easy for me to work from this area for a couple of days.

The one thing that puzzled me was this: the desk chair was the only chair in the room. The room could sleep four people if you put two in the sleeper sofa. Where were the other folks supposed to sit while eating at the table? I guess the ottoman could be used for that purpose and maybe two small children could sit there. As I was the room’s only occupant it wasn’t an issue for me, I just found it strange.

Kitchenette

I refer to this area as “kitchenette” instead of “kitchen” because there’s no cooktop. There is a note saying that a portable cooktop is available if needed. I guess it depends on how much actual stove-top cooking you normally do. I lasted 4 months in the Homewood Suites without ever using the cooktop that was provided.

There’s a full-sized refrigerator with the freezer on the bottom.

Fridge on the top (left) and Freezer on the bottom

In the center is the sink with the microwave above it. There are open storage areas for cups and glasses on one side and plates and bowls on the other.

I counted six place servings but when I checked the silverware drawer one of the basic utensils had only 5 items though I can’t recall if it was spoons, forks or knives. Still, for a single person that’s not really an issue. There were also a few baking/casserole-type dishes which might be good for reheating things in the microwave.

Bathroom

The bathroom is not overly large but doesn’t feel like tight quarters.  There’s only one sink though there’s plenty of counter space on either side.  The shelf beneath the sink holds the linens.  Above the toilet are hooks for hanging up the bath towels.  The bathroom has a pocket door which made the room feel larger, I think, since you didn’t have to slide down by the toilet to open or close it.

I liked how wide the drawers were.  At both my stays in Homewood Suites this year the drawers were too narrow to easily accommodate the hair dryer.  This drawer had no such issues.  As a bonus, the drawers were also wide enough to put my dopp kit in it without it being squished on the sides.  That may be the first time I’ve ever stayed anywhere with a drawer that wide.

The toiletries were all by Neutrogena.  At the sink was a bar of soap.

And as you can see there were wall-mounted toiletries provided in the shower.  These were also Neutrogena products, like what was provided at Homewood Suites.  After just two showers I was reminded why I’d ended up buying my own body wash when living there – this shower gel will dry your skin like crazy.  The shampoo was fine but no conditioner was provided.  When I return over the holidays I will be sure to bring some with me. 

The shower has the one small shelf in the corner by the toiletries and, wonder of wonders, not one but TWO well-placed shelves in the back corner!  I had been excited when some hotels began putting a small shelf in the lower back corner of shower stalls as it makes shaving your legs so much easier.  But the problem was there was nowhere to put the razor (except the shower floor) while putting shave gel on your leg and once your leg was covered, there was nowhere to set the can of shave gel while you were shaving.  This shower had a higher shelf just for that purpose and it was greatly appreciated!  (Really, I know guys have no idea how big a deal this is but it’s groundbreaking.)  Kudos to the design team for getting this right.

Other Amenities

Spin2Cycle

Spin2Cycle is the name given to the area that contains both the self-serve laundry and the gym.  It’s just off the lobby and opposite the elevators.  Stepping inside there are a couple of chairs, presumably for use by those waiting on their laundry.  Two sets of washers and dryers are available.  It felt just like home, er, the Homewood Suites where I lived for four months, when I saw that one of the units was out of service.

The gym is not large but has a recumbent bike, a couple of treadmills and an elliptical trainer for cardio.  There’s also a small universal machine and a bench with a large selection of hand weights. A selection of medicine balls, a fit ball and several mats were available as well.  I don’t believe I ever saw anyone using the gym but I intend to try it out on my next visit.  I’ve resisted going back to my own gym so far just because I don’t want to wear a mask while working out and am not comfortable being among that many folks without wearing a mask but if I was the only one in the place I’d feel perfectly fine doing that.

Patio

On the back side of the building is a patio with a number of tables and chairs and two large grills.  I assume they’re available for all guests.  It would be nice to eat breakfast out here on pretty mornings.  There were also seating areas just outside the front door but they were currently not in use due to COVID-19.

Pool

The hotel has a covered saltwater pool though it was closed due to the pandemic.  This photo was taken through the door.

Pandemic Protections

As mentioned above, all employees wore face masks and generally wore them properly when dealing with guests.  Breakfast was reduced to grab-n-go with only one hot item available each day. (I was really surprised there was no orange juice.) There is no full housekeeping every day though there are signs posted indicating what types of cleaning you can expect for your room.  Since I was only staying three nights and was working during the day, I opted to have them skip my room entirely.  There are signs posted everywhere about wearing masks and keeping six feet apart.  There is a laundry cart in each floor’s elevator lobby if you have dirty towels you’d like to turn in.  While the cart is a little unsightly it’s better than towels sitting on the floor outside a room.

Going Green

The hotel did provide separate trash and recycling bins in the room, which I always appreciate.  They’re very proud of the eco-friendly portions of the hotel and have this large poster in the elevator to brag on themselves a bit.  (Nothing wrong with that.)

In the end

I really enjoyed my stay at the Home2Suites.  It was nice to be able to be within walking distance of so many restaurants at lunch time.  It was a good place to “work from home” while not at home.  I plan to return at Thanksgiving but it was so much more expensive at Christmas that I’ll be at the Hampton instead – at least as of now.  I’ve learned to keep checking on prices as travel dates approach and you may get a better deal!

 

Categories: Hilton, Home2Suites, Hotel, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Activate 2020 4th Quarter Bonus Categories

It’s the 15th of the 3rd month of the quarter so it’s time to activate bonus categories for card that have quarterly bonuses for next quarter.  All of these cards offer bonus points or cash back on up to $2000 in purchases during the quarter.

US Bank Cash+

If you’re not already getting 5x Ultimate Rewards points by using a Chase Ink card (and even if you are!) you may want to switch the card you’re using for payment for TV/Internet/Streaming Services and Cell Phones.  You must register your card before December 25th to get the bonus cash-back in the categories you select.  As a reminder, you choose two 5% categories and one 2% category.  To register, click on the link in the email you received from US Bank or visit this link.  I’m choosing Home Utilities (as usual) and Gyms (as usual).

Discover Card

Discover has already given us the full calendar for 2020.  For Q4 the categories are:

Pretty good categories for your holiday shopping.

Chase Freedom

Chase Freedom’s Q4 categories are Walmart and PayPal.  I expect this to be very popular for holiday shopping.

To register you can go to this link to look at the calendar, then click on the Activate Now button as seen above.

In the end

Always register for the bonus categories even if you don’t think you’re going to use them.  You’ll never know when they might come in handy!

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Upgrades to the Chase Freedom Unlimited

The Chase Freedom Unlimited (CFU) is already a pretty great card. It has no annual fee and offers 1.5 Ultimate Rewards (UR) points on each purchase. Those URs can be exchanged for 1 cent per point (cpp) on your credit card statement or, if you have one of Chase’s premium UR-earning cards, the Sapphire Preferred (CSP) or the Sapphire Reserve (CSR), the UR points can be transferred to one of Chase’s hotel or airline partners or redeemed for travel purchases through the Chase portal at the rate of 1.25 cpp (CSP) or 1.5 cpp (CSR).

Starting Sunday, September 13th the earning rate gets even better.

When you purchase travel products through the Chase portal and pay with your CFU card you’ll now receive 5x UR points! This is a fantastic rate though you’ll need to be aware of two things. First, the CFU *does* impose foreign transaction fees of 3% so you’d only want to use this card for purchases on US-based airlines. Second, your purchase will be made through Expedia, on online travel agency, so that’s another layer between you and the airline should your travel plans change. Hopefully that will never be an issue but I always want to point that out.

Next, the CFU will now earn 3x UR points for Dining, which includes not only restaurants but take out delivery services. In addition, you’ll get complimentary 3 months of DashPass which is DoorDash’s subscription service that offers $0 delivery fee on orders over $12. After your 3 months are up you’re automatically enrolled in DashPass for the remaining 9 months at 50% off.

The third upgraded category is drugstores where you’ll now earn 3x UR points per purchase.

Additionally if you use your CFU for Lyft you’ll earn 5x UR points on Lyft rides through March 2022.

If you don’t have the Freedom Unlimited the current signup offer is an easy one to meet. Once you’re approved and spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months after approval you’ll earn 20,000 UR points (equivalent to $200 cash back). If you are approved via this link I will also earn a small commission.

More to Come?

The Dining category on this free card is now better than the $95-per-year Sapphire Preferred and equivalent to the $550-per-year Sapphire Reserve so the general consensus is that there will be upgrades coming to those cards soon.  Personally I use the Discover Card and the Chase Freedom card during quarters they offer 5%/5x points and the American Express Gold Card which offers 4x points on Dining but as a fall back I’ve used the CSR.  It would be great to see upgrades to the points categories for the CSP and CSR soon.

Categories: Chase, Credit Cards, Freedom Unlimiited | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Review: Homewood Suites Southwind Hacks Cross (Memphis)

I hadn’t planned to stay at this hotel just a few miles from my home. My clothes dryer had other ideas. Fortunately I was home the night it decided to catch fire and I was able to call the fire department before things got too far out of hand. Though the fire damage was mostly confined to the hallway where my laundry closet is, the smoke and soot went everywhere so I spent nearly four months living elsewhere. Except for a couple of weeks where I was on vacation skiing, I was living in the Homewood Suites.

Homewood Suites Exterior
(photo credit: hilton.com)

If you’re not familiar with Homewood Suites, it’s Hilton’s mid-range all-suites brand. All the rooms have small kitchenettes with a stove, microwave, dishwasher and full-sized refrigerator. Most of the rooms are one bedroom (king) suites meaning that the remainder of the space is one large room with a bed at one end and the sofa at the other and a TV that can be swiveled between the two areas. The room I had was a one bedroom (king) studio suite. The difference in this and the studio suite is that the bedroom has a door that can be closed and there are two TVs, one in each room. Both of these room types have a sleeper sofa that looks to be a double bed. There’s also one suite with two king beds and a few rooms for the mobility-challenged that have two queen beds.

I received a friendly welcome when I arrived and over my time there got friendly with a lot of the staff. The managers, especially Brandon, took great care of me during my stay. I was initially assigned a room on the ground floor which was nice, considering how much stuff I ended up moving into the room. While I had to check out the one week I was on vacation, I was able to reserve the room next door for my return where I stayed the rest of time.

Homewood Suites Lobby
(photo credit: hilton.com)

Homewood Suites are generally considered three-star properties and that’s probably fair. This HS is not far from our local soccer complex and as such can be very busy on weekends when there are tournaments in town. Of course once the COVID lockdowns began in mid-March the number of guests dropped dramatically and it was much quieter.

This property is showing its age a bit. The kitchen and entry area have a laminate floor while the rest of the room (except the bathroom) has carpet. The edge between the laminate and the carpet was quite worn, resulting in cracked flooring and frayed carpet. Around the window were spots of rust, the kind I’d never have noticed if this were a short-term stay because I’d never have looked behind the curtains but some days in the spring I’d open the windows to let in some fresh air and thus noticed these spots.

Even before COVID I was only having housekeeping come in once a week but once the lockdown began housekeeping was no longer allowed to enter rooms where people were checked in. So I changed my own sheets and borrowed their cleaning supplies to do what I could. Still, by the time I checked out the room clearly needed a deep clean. Looking back, in mid-April I should have asked to switch rooms again just to keep my room from getting so stale. Hopefully I don’t have to stay in a hotel this long ever again but if so, lesson learned.

One Bedroom Suite

As this is an older property, the room felt a tiny bit smaller than the Homewood Suites in Steamboat, Colorado where I spent one night in February. Upon entering the room the floor is a hardwood laminate and extends to one side into your galley kitchen. Take two steps and you’re in the carpeted area that includes the living area and the bedroom The sleeper sofa is directly in front and the TV and entertainment center are opposite. Go through the door beside the TV and enter the bedroom where you’ll find a king bed and the bathroom.

Kitchen

The galley kitchen is quite narrow but has a two-burner stove, a microwave, toaster, coffee maker and a full-size refrigerator/freezer.

Homewood Suites Kitchen

I think there are supposed to be four sets of silverware but I believe I had only two knives and three spoons or something like that. I also noticed that I had different kitchen knives between the two rooms I occupied. I asked housekeeping about it once and they didn’t seem to think those inconsistencies were anything to be concerned with, that it was probably just something that happened over years as people in different rooms may have gotten together and exchanged the cutlery among them. All of that to say that if you’re planning to be cooking a good bit you may want to bring your own cutlery or verify what’s available before you begin cooking.

I’m not a coffee drinker so didn’t use what was provided but I did note that one guy across the hall bought his own coffee maker so I guess what was provided wasn’t great. Or maybe he’s a coffee snob.

The kitchen design had the counter on the outer (hall) wall of unit with the fridge against the far wall but facing the counter. This caused an issue when trying to open the dishwasher. The kitchen is so narrow that the dishwasher door cannot be full laid flat which means you can’t really put anything in the back of the lower rack unless you have long arms or are a contortionist. This was never an issue for me as I don’t cook and could easily just use the top rack and the front of the lower rack. It was good to see in newer Homewood Suites (like the one in Steamboat) that the dishwasher was placed at the other end of the counter so there was no interference with its door.

Across from the kitchen counter, beside the fridge was a small table with two chairs. As there’s no desk in this unit the table could double for that – but only if it happens to suit you. I found it too tall to comfortably type all day so I ended up only using it for its original purpose.

Living Area

The living area consists of a sleeper sofa with a table and lamp on one side and a floor lamp on the other, an arm chair and a 6-drawer chest with the TV on top. There’s also a rectangle ottoman and an unique coffee table that sits over it like an arch. These pieces detach from each other so you can use the ottoman as a footstool or as additional seating.  I apparently failed to take photos of this area so here is a photo from the Hilton website.  This photo appears to be from a 2-bedroom unit as mine did not have this opening into the bedroom and the TV stand was flush against the left wall.

Homewood Suites Living Area
(photo credit: hilton.com)

Bedroom

The king bed dominates the bedroom. There are night stands with lamps on either side and one side has an alarm clock. The lamps have both electric and USB outlets for charging your devices, which is very nice.

Homewood Suites King Bed

Across from the bed, on the wall with the door that backs on to the living room is another 6-drawer chest with a TV on top. Although there were approximately 50 channels available, I was disappointed by the selection. The local Fox Sports affiliates were not available which meant I couldn’t watch Memphis Grizzlies basketball or Nashville Predators hockey – although live games were shut down in mid-March, re-runs of exciting past games were aired and I’d have liked to have been able to watch them. There was also no Animal Planet or ION television, to my disappointment. I ended up rarely turning on the TV.

Homewood Suites Bedroom

Bathroom

The bathroom area has a tiled floor. The sink area is open to the room and has decent counter space on either side of the sink. On each side underneath the sink is a small drawer and a narrow cabinet. The drawer is so narrow that the hair dryer only barely fit and had to be set inside “just right” so that the drawer would close. I loved the fluorescent light built into the mirror.  For someone as near-sighted as I am it was a great to be able to see clearly up close.

Homewood Suites Bathroom

Toiletries were by Neutrogena and I wasn’t crazy about their perfume-y smell.  I ended up buying my own full-sized toiletries since I’d need them eventually anyway.

Homewood Suites Neutrogena Toiletries. I’m not a great fan.

Against the back wall was the closet. It has double sliding doors but really, only one was needed. Even then, the doors did not slide completely past the closet’s opening. This made it very difficult to reach anything that was in the farthest corner. I realize for most folks this is not an issue but as someone living there, it became a real pain.

Homewood Suites Closet
This is as far as the sliding door opened

The toilet and tub/shower are in a room with its own door across from the sink. Water pressure was decent and I never ran out of hot water.

Homewood Suites Tub and Toilet

Amenities

Dining

Pre-COVID this property offered a hot breakfast every day. Cereal and fruit were also available. Monday thru Thursday evenings a light meal was also offered that included limited adult beverages. After mid-March the food area shut down completely and had not resumed when I left in late May. But if it has started back, be sure to make friends with Ms. Betty in the mornings and Ms. Linda in the evenings and they will take very good care of you.

Homewood Suites Dining Area
(photo credit: hilton.com)

At the time I checked in snacks and sundries were available in a small store next to the front desk. In April all items from the store were removed and the front desk no longer had cash.

Laundry

The laundry room is located on the second floor at the opposite end of the building from the front desk. There are two washers and two dryers. When I arrived the two washers worked but only one of the dryers worked. They all looked old and were removed the first week of March in anticipation of new ones arriving. However the new ones didn’t arrive right away and it was either late April or early May before the new units finally arrived. And even then, one of the dryers didn’t work. Since it was in the same spot as the previous dryer that didn’t work, I think there’s something wrong with the wiring or the outlet there.

Homewood Suites Laundry Room – these units were replaced with newer models this spring

Gym

There is also a tiny gym on the first floor, directly under the laundry room.  I never used it because shortly after my arrival it was shut down due to COVID.  This is unfortunate because it’s small enough that allowing people reserve it and allow for cleanings between uses is certainly do-able.

Homewood Suites Gym

Homewood Suites Gym

Outdoor amenities

The hotel does have a pool though of course it was too cool to use during most of my stay and then COVID. There’s also a basketball court and after the weather warmed up it was not unusual to see young men playing. I’m not sure they were guests but as this was during the most restrictive period of the COVID lockdown I was surprised management allowed them to stay and play. I had heard of other hotels removing their basketball rims to prevent this type of quarantine violation.

In the end

This is not a fancy hotel but it’s nice if you’re going to be somewhere for an extended amount of time. If kids’ soccer is not your thing you might want to check to be sure there’s no tournament in the area before booking. I would not hesitate to have family stay here on future visits.

Categories: Hilton, Homewood Suites, Hotel, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

US Bank Cash+ Promo: Gas, Sporting Goods/Bike Shops, Motorhome/RV Rentals [Targeted]

Edit: a short time after receiving this offer on my Cash+ card, I received the same offer on my Radisson Rewards Visa.

 

US Bank is back with another limited time promo on their Cash+ card. This one is good through September 30, 2020.

The bonuses are limited by category but can total up to $90 as follows:

  • 3% cash back on purchases at Gas Stations (up to $20 statement credit)
  • 3% cash back on purchases at Sporting Goods and Bike shops (up to $20 statement credit)
  • 5% cash back on Motorhome and RV Rentals (up to $50 statement credit)

This is a nice extra for folks who are hitting the road in an RV for a last summer fling or for those who may not otherwise have gas as a bonus category. While 3% is nice at gas stations, it’s not something I’ll be taking advantage of because the Chase Sapphire Preferred is currently offering 5x points at gas stations. Otherwise I’d be using my Citi Premier card that always earns 3x at gas stations and since each point is worth more that a penny, it makes more sense to earn points in this situation.

To register for this promo, look for for an email in your inbox. You must register by August 31st.

One other thing to note is that each quarter you have the option of selecting sporting goods as a 5% category with the Cash+ card. In reading the fine print it would appear the 3% earned here is in addition to the cash back earned otherwise. So if you selected sporting goods for this quarter you could earn a total of 8% cash back. That’s nice if you have a special purchase in mind.

Were you targeted for this promotion? Will you take advantage of it?

Categories: Cash Plus, Credit Card Promos, Credit Cards, US Bank | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

US Bank Cash+ offer for $10 cash back on insurance payments

One thing I like about the US Bank Cash+ card is that it offers you your choice of categories each quarter where you can earn increased rewards. You can select two 5x categories and 1 2x category, which is really nice for a card with no annual fee. While a number of these categories are ones seen on other cards, grocery, gas, clothing, etc. they also include categories I don’t see with other cards. I especially love that home utilities is a 5x choice. My home utility bill includes not only electricity, gas and water but also sewer charges, fire protection (I’m not in the city limits so I don’t pay taxes for that) and mosquito control. They also offer gym memberships and sporting goods as categories and I’ve been able to take advantage of getting 5% cash back on those fees too.

Now they’re adding a 1-time statement credit of $10 for insurance payments. Just this week I received my auto insurance bill so it’s perfect timing for me. There’s a limit of one $10 bonus and this offer expires October 31, 2020. So even if you don’t have this card yet, it’s not to late to apply and use it for this purpose.

Will you take advantage of this offer?

Categories: Cash Plus, Credit Card Promos, Credit Cards, US Bank | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Activate 2020 3rd Quarter Bonus Categories

It’s the 15th of the 3rd month of the quarter so it’s time to activate bonus categories for card that have quarterly bonuses for next quarter.  All of these cards offer bonus points or cash back on up to $2000 in purchases during the quarter.

US Bank Cash+

If you’re not already getting 5x Ultimate Rewards points by using a Chase Ink card (and even if you are!) you may want to switch the card you’re using for payment for TV/Internet/Streaming Services and Cell Phones.  You must register your card before September 25th to get the bonus cash-back in the categories you select.  As a reminder, you choose two 5% categories and one 2% category.  To register, click on the link in the email you received from US Bank or visit this link.  I’m choosing Home Utilities (as usual) and Gyms (as usual).

Discover Card

Discover has already given us the full calendar for 2020.  For Q3 the categories are:

This is a great category for me as I eat out a lot.

Don’t forget that Discover added Home Depot for the month of June as a 5% category and Home Depot sells gift cards, although the one near me does not sell the variable load Visas.

Chase Freedom

Q3’s Chase Freedom categories are Amazon and Whole Foods.  With so many people ordering online, this will no doubt be a popular category.  You can redeem the Ultimate Rewards (UR) points earned through these purchases in several ways.  As a statement credit they’re worth one cent apiece.  You can use them to book travel through the Chase portal, also for one cent apiece.  Where their value really shines is if you have either the Chase Sapphire Preferred (CSP) or Chase Sapphire Reserve.  Though these cards carry annual fees ($95 for CSP, $450 for CSR) you can combine the UR points earned on the Freedom with those earned on your other UR-earning card and transfer them to several airlines and hotel groups.  Or you can book through the Chase travel portal for 1.25 cents apiece if you have the CSP or 1.5 cents each if you have the CSR.  I have the CSR and my friends and I booked a lovely ocean-front condo on the Sunshine Coast of Australia using UR points at 1.5 cents each.  It was a fantastic way to top off our trip Down Under.

To register you can go to this link to look at the calendar, then click on the Activate Now button as seen above.

In the end

Always register for the bonus categories even if you don’t think you’re going to use them.  You’ll never know when they might come in handy!

Categories: Cash Plus, Chase, Credit Cards, Discover, Freedom, US Bank | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Bonuses Galore

Chase, American Express and Citibank have each unleashed a slew of new bonuses for those who carry their travel-related cards. Since folks aren’t spending money on travel, they’ve increased the bonus points earned at groceries on cards you might not otherwise be using there. Amex and Citibank are also giving you different ways to spend the travel credit that come with some of their premium cards.

All of these changes are temporary as we deal with this virus. While it’s great to have these options, let’s hope they don’t have to come up with more creative ways to incentivize us to use their cards once these offers run out. That will mean we are or will soon be traveling again. Continue reading

Categories: Chase, Citi Prestige, Citibank, Credit Card Promos, Credit Cards, Delta Amex, Hilton Aspire, Hilton Surpass, IHG Rewards Card, Marriott Rewards Card, Membership Rewards, Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Lodging Review: Torian Plum Condos, Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Our club stayed here as we enjoyed a week of skiing the Champagne PowderⓇ  at Steamboat resort in north central Colorado. If you choose to fly to Denver it’s a 3+ hour drive so the preference is to fly into nearby Hayden (HDN) which is about a 35-minute drive from the resort. We’ve stayed at this property a number of times and one of the main things we love about it is that each morning you take the elevator down to the ground floor, walk across the plaza and you’re on the snow and can ski down to the lifts from there. In the afternoon, as long as you be sure to stay on the skier’s right at the end of the day you can ski right up to the plaza too. It’s a location that’s hard to beat! The property is comprised of two towers: the Plaza Tower and the Creekside Tower. The Creekside tower, which is slightly uphill from the Plaza Tower is approximately 10 years newer than the Plaza Tower. The Plaza Tower has the parking garage beneath it. The garage is accessible to both towers, it’s just a slightly longer underground walk to the Creekside Tower.

Aerial view of the Torian Plum and the plaza between it and the snow

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Lodging Review: Homewood Suites Steamboat Springs, Colorado

For my second ski trip this year I visited Steamboat Springs, Colorado. My group was arriving on Saturday and since I was the assistant trip leader I wanted to be sure I arrived before or at least with the group. To be certain of this I flew out Friday night and spent one at the Homewood Suites Steamboat Springs.

Homewood Suites Steamboat Springs

I arrived on a group shuttle from the airport sometime after 10 PM so things were fairly quiet at that point. (Side note: due to the hotel’s location, it’s very possible you’ll be the last stop on a shared shuttle ride.) I was assisted promptly, my Diamond status was recognized, and I was directed to a room on the third floor. The hotel has two elevators, one on each side of the lobby and I was helpfully shown the one that would be closest to my room. The hotel is laid out in a gentle V shape with the lobby, bar and breakfast area in the center. A free parking area is in the back of the hotel. There’s a small market with snacks available next to the front desk.

Lobby area

The hotel is relatively new; this is only its second ski season. As such almost everything is still in very good shape and the decor looks modern. My room was only a short walk from the elevator.

Guest Floor Hallway

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Categories: Hilton, Homewood Suites, Hotel, Lodging Review | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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