American Express cardholders have long had the benefit of buying American Express travelers checks at no fee, using their American Express cards. The limit recently has been $1000 per Amex card every two weeks.
The ‘little secret’ in all of this is that the travelers checks post as a purchase, not a cash advance, and thus earn miles and do not incur cash advance fees.
In order to take advantage of this deal you had to go to an actual (rather than independent but branded) American Express travel office.
Sadly, the free travelers check benefit goes away at the end of December.
However, in the meantime, American Express is offering these travelers checks for sale online for just $5.95 using promo code TCDIRECT. Which means you’re buying 1000 points with, say, your Starwood American Express card for $5.95. Then deposit the travelers checks into your checking account, you have the funds needed to pay your credit card bill. Rinse, repeat until the end of the calendar year.
(I vaguely recall that this does not work with Amex Membership Rewards cards, there’s an extensive thread on Flyertalk discussing the ins and outs of purchase of Amex travelers checks with Amex cards and that thread would contain the answer for sure.)
(Hat tip to Frugal Travel Guy.)
Update: A reader writes to correct me on two fronts — first, that while you can only make travelers check purchases up to $1000 online every two weeks, you can do it once every seven days in-store. And second that it is not fully confirmed, just a rumor, that December 31 will mark the end of fee-free travelers checks from American Express. The other point this reader makes, worth noting, is that the offer only applies to American Express cards issued by American Express and not by other banks such as Citibank or Bank of America.