Author Archives: 2btravel

About 2btravel

I love traveling and go where I can when I can. I prefer to use points & miles as payment! This site will concentrate on trip reports and how I used points to accomplish it. Happy to help others 2B Traveling with points too!

Activate 2021 2nd 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 March 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 2021.  For Q2 the categories are:

Note that this category overlaps with the Chase Freedom/Unlimited category.  Still if your gas station has a nice collection of gift cards it might be do-able.  To activate the bonus, simply log into your Discover account and click on the Activate Now button.

Chase Freedom and Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom’s Q2 categories are Gas Stations and Home Improvement stores.  Don’t forget that these stores often sell both merchant and cash-equivalent gift cards so buy gift cards at these places and spend them elsewhere and save.

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

2020: The Year In Travel

What a difference a year makes! In 2019 I had 30 flight segments and nearly 50,000 miles flown. In 2020, just 7 flight segments and 4,155 miles in the air.

Of course we all know why. I’m not positive I’d ever heard the word “pandemic” before March of this year and now it’s part of our everyday vocabulary.

Map created by JetLovers.com

I did get two ski trips in before the US shut down(-ish) and had related lodging reviews:

Then there was the small fire in my home that caused me to live at the Homewood Suites Southwind/Hacks Cross here in Memphis for four months.

I was able to get back to Nashville in the late summer and stayed at the new Home2Suites by Hilton Nashville Bellevue on the southwest side of the city and stayed there again at Christmas. Over Thanksgiving I was at nearby Hampton Inn that I reviewed late last year. Amex Offers provided discounts to both places which was an unexpected bonus.

I’ve got a ski trip planned for early February and am hoping it doesn’t get canceled. At the time of this writing some Colorado counties are not allowing folks who don’t live together to share vacation lodging. Hopefully that won’t be the case in Eagle County during the week I’m planning to be there.

This past October we were scheduled to go to Hawaii and attend a Hilton timeshare presentation in return for several free nights on the Big Island. Obviously that got canceled but I was still on the hook to attend a presentation. So we’ve moved it to Myrtle Beach, SC in May and will hope to take a few days on either side to explore the Carolinas.

We don’t have plans for our usual big trip in the fall; it will all depend on how things go with vaccines, etc. Hopefully in a few months we’ll be able to get the ball rolling on that – even if we stay domestic instead of going abroad in 2021.

How did your 2020 travel plans change and what do you have on tap for 2021?

Categories: Year in Review | Tags: | Leave a comment

Activate 2021 1st 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 March 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 2021.  For Q1 the categories are:

Until this weekend I’d have said this was an easy category to fulfill.  But with Wal-Mart attempting to shut down manufactured spending opportunities, it may not be as easy as buying 3 x $500 gift cards.  However, if you still have a Bluebird or Serve card and are allowed to load with a gift card, this might not be too difficult.

 

Chase Freedom

Chase Freedom’s Q4 categories are Wholesale Clubs, Internet/Cable/Phone services, Select Streaming Services.  As mentioned above, if you’re not already getting 5x on Internet/Cable/Phone via your Chase Ink card, this is a good opportunity to earn more for a few months.

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

Discover Adds to Q4 Retailers

Effective today (25 November) Discover added a new retailer to their 4th quarter bonus categories.  You can now earn 5% cash back on up to $1500 in purchases at Best Buy as well as the previously announced retailers Amazon, Walmart.com and Target.com.

 

Make sure you register before using your Discover card.

HT: Frequent Miler

Categories: Credit Card Promos, Credit Cards, Discover | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Discover Announces 2021 Bonus Categories

Beginning last year Discover decided to release its bonus categories a year in advance. I find this very helpful as it helps me plan which card I’ll use each quarter.

Today Discover released its 2021 calendar:

If you have a Discover card you can go ahead and activate the bonus categories for Q1 now.  I try to activate these as soon as possible so I don’t forget about it later on.

Categories: Credit Card Promos, Credit Cards, Discover | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

A New Credit Card Links Page

I’ve added a new page containing referral links in case you want to sign up for credit cards. These are not commissioned links given by the credit card companies to some bloggers but are the normal referral links any card member has. That may mean that these links do not have the best available signup offers. Therefore before using any of these links I suggest you check Frequent Miler’s page of best available signup bonuses. Greg and his team do a great job of providing the best available link regardless of whether or not it earns them a commission, something I appreciate very much. A direct link to his page is available on our Credit Cards page. You’ll find a link to that in the upper right-hand corner of this page.

Unfortunately Citibank, US Bank and Barclays don’t offer refer-a-friend bonuses so I don’t have any links for those products.

Categories: American Express, Chase, Credit Cards, Discover | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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!) Continue reading

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!

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

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

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