Mailbag: Sockdrawer Ink Bold, Camping in China, and Africa Hops

C in Austin asks: my friend is traveling to China and had a question that I had no idea how to answer. She asked if she could expect to find places to camp if she brought a tent? Any thoughts? 

I was refreshing my knowledge to see if anything had changed, it hasn’t. I found this excellent site, Travel China Cheaper, and its 4 Things to Know About Camping in China that hones in on the issue, “yes, it is legal to camp in China. And at the same time it is illegal.”

French sports retailer Decathlon (China site in English here) has numerous outlets in China that charge even better prices than in Europe for their excellent full range of sports products including the best snorkeling mask in the world, the Tribord Easybreath.  They have camping equipment. I have brought many suitcases of Decathlon products back to the US, including my scooter, the Town 9 Easyfold Scooter that I use for neighborhood runs. I call it the MS Flyer.

As well, many stores in China sell high-priced imports from familiar international brands.
Triboard Easybreath

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E in Chicago asks: I have the old Ink Business Bold.  I’ve never bothered canceling it as I put enough 5x spend on it to make it worthwhile.  I’m intrigued by recent signup bonuses for other Ink cards (targeted 100k and others) and am thinking of seeing if I can get approved for a new one.  My question for you is, given the fact that the Ink Bold is no longer available for new sign-ups, is there any reason to keep it?  Other than World MasterCard benefits (which I get through citi cards), I can’t think of any.  I know certain ‘legacy’ cards have cult followings – I’m thinking of the old Continental [Presidential Plus] card, for example – but I’m not sure there’s any value here? Do you recommend canceling the current card before applying for the new one, or does it matter?

I had Ink Bold and Plus cards several years ago, did not see value to me beyond the first year and canceled them. I have tried several times since for new cards, online and in-branch, and not gotten approved. Getting a new one you are up against the Chase 5/24 rule. In-branch application may help. Chase does not do pre-approvals for business cards so you’ll need to submit the application. Usually a different business is easier than same business. That said, your business has never had an Ink Plus so many work.

The legacy benefits to the Ink cards I believe are all gone. You have the bonus categories for earn and the travel redemptions, both points transfers to airlines/hotels and the 20% bonus on points for cash travel redemptions within Ultimate Rewards.

Rather than close you might downgrade to the Ink Cash. That seems to work as long as the account has been open 12 months. The Ink Cash caps the bonus category earn at $25,000/year and you lose the travel transfers and 20%. The idea is that you can later upgrade to Ink Plus when you have a points balance worth a transfer.

Last week I applied in branch for Chase Sapphire Reserve, Ink Plus (old business) and Ink Cash (newer business). The purpose for the Ink Cash application is to have a card that I can pool with my Chase Freedom cards and upgrade to Ink Plus when the time is right for an airline transfer. All applications have gone to pending. I will wait for the a decision before calling reconsideration.

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S in Pennsylvania and I had a long discussion on Africa, and United award stopovers and 24-hour connections. Excerpting one piece, he asked, “It’s really difficult to find destinations with two daily flights (i.e. under 24-hour turnaround) or single flights with times that are offset from one day to the next.  During your research, did you compile a list of these?”

Ethiopian Air Transfer Desk

Ethiopian has a few. Popular ones include Nairobi and Dar-Es-Salaam. Others are to mostly short distance destinations not high on tourist lists: Djibouti, Hargeisa, Khartoum and Juba come to mind.

Others you can mix Star Alliance carriers to make it work when each has a daily flight. Blantyre and Lilongwe in Malawi can work when combining Ethiopian and South African.

Look around for current 5th Freedom flights. There are a bunch in West Africa. South African flying Abidjan-Accra, TAP flying Sao Tome-Accra, Brussels flying Freetown-Monrovia, etc.

Complex Africa trips are a puzzle often requiring brute force searching of many options until something fits together.

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  • Brenton

    I’m 2/2 on getting the Chase ink annual fee waived. Unless I have no other way to meet minimum spend, I typically buy all my dining and home improvement gift cards at office max/depot with it.

  • chris

    Have you seen the Mobike around Shanghai or Beijing? It’s another bike-sharing, except better since it doesn’t require going to a dock. A smartphone unlocks the bike and you can return it anywhere that has the white bike parking areas. And only 1RMB per half hour!

    I was thinking about getting a foot scooter but then learned about Mobike.

  • @chris – very cool and new to me, spent so little time in China recently, get out of date fast. We have Citi bike here though Hoboken is a different system and the MS stops I make don’t have stations in front, I like the folding scooter because I can bring inside rather than worry about parking and theft.