Best ways to earn Southwest points without flying

Did you know you can earn points that will get you free flights without ever stepping foot on a plane?

Many airlines have teamed with major credit card companies to offer bonus miles at sign up or you can earn miles while shopping But if you're partial to Southwest, you can do more than just shop to earn their Rapid Rewards points. Once earned, those points are valid to travel anywhere the airline flies--  not just in the U.S. but to international destinations like Cuba, Costa Rica, and in June, the Cayman Islands

Here are six simple ways to build your Southwest Rapid Rewards account so you can fly free, as my family did for an entire year:

1. Go Shopping
Southwest offers a shopping portal where you can start your online shopping to earn Southwest points for purchases you are making anyway. The portal features hundreds pf major retailers and pays anywhere from half-a-point to 10 points or more for every dollar spent. You can also order items online and have them delivered in store for later pick up.
Just be sure to complete your shopping within a few hours of clicking through to the retailer from the Southwest portal and avoid using coupons codes other than the ones provided by Southwest to ensure you get your points.

2. Pay Your Electric Bill
People who live in Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania or Texas and use energy companies that include Reliant Energy, NRG or Everything Energy can earn points for free travel on Southwest simply by paying their electric bill. Southwest offers points both for signing up for new service, as well as for paying your monthly bill, which in some cases can add up to 27,000 Southwest points annually. With fares on Southwest starting at around 4000 points one way, you could be flying free in no time.

3. Eat at a Restaurant
Through the Rapid Rewards Dining program, you can earn points while you dine out. Once you sign up and register any credit or debit card you might use to pay for a meal, you will automatically earn points if the restaurant where you're dining is a participant. The program pays three points per dollar spent, as well as another 10 points for completing a review. New members can earn up to 1000 points after signing up and then spending at least $25 at each of three participating restaurants.

4. Subscribe to a Magazine or Newspaper
Southwest's Shopping Portal regularly offers opportunities to earn hundreds of bonus points for signing up for various newspapers, magazines and media apps. You can currently earn between 650 and 1100 points each for subscribing to various publications at discounted rates like $12 for 3 months or $6.99 for a year.

5. Book a Hotel Room
This year, Southwest launched a hotel booking site that awards users up to 10,000 airline points per hotel stay by reserving the room through their site. Many of the hotels on the site, which include most major chains, allow you to reserve a room without paying up front and do not charge a cancellation fee. Southwest also promises to price-match if you find a lower price elsewhere.

6. Learn About Your DNA
Curious about your ancestry? Order the 23andMe genetic testing service to find out what your 23 pairs of chromosomes reveal about your health, ancestors and inclinations. Purchase the kit through the Shopping Portal and score a quick 700 points.

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