The average American holds four times as many loyalty program memberships as credit cards—10.4 compared with 2.6, according to 2014 research by COLLOQUY and Gallup, respectively. Yet the average American participates in less than half of those reward programs. Sometime after activation, interest appears to drop like price tags on December 26.

For consumers, the implications are greater than merely carrying around some extra plastic. If those reward programs are tied to unused credit cards, they risk becoming de-activated, which can ping a credit rating. If the consumer signs up for a non-credit card program simply for the enrollment offer, she has opted to share personal information in return for a one-time promotion. Hardly seems like a fair exchange.

It is possible for consumers to gain in their wallets a sum commensurate with what they sign up for in loyalty programs—they simply must identify those programs that would best benefit them. Here are a few ways how.

1. Choose based on experience

Shoppers should consider what qualities inspire them to do repeat business with a brand and limit their memberships to those that deliver on them. If the merchant rarely carries your size or favorite brand of cereal, why return?

2. Favor rewards most valued

Companies have become quite creative in finding imaginative ways to reward customers. A luxury retailer may offer VIP tickets to fashion shows, while traditional grocers (which count 170 million members—down 2 percent from 2012, according to the Census) get mileage from short-term promotions. Shoppers should assess how they spend their time and money and be realistic about what they will use.

3. Consider the cost

Many programs charge a fee for membership, so be sure to ask. Sometimes, as in the case of Amazon Prime, these fees offer great services in return. Note that free programs also come with fees of a sort—they collect personal data. Shoppers should be sure the benefits promised are worth their information.

By limiting the number of cards in their wallets, consumers can increase not just their rewards, but also their opportunities.