While the economy may be on the upswing, real wages continue to be stagnant in the U.S. economy and consumers are continuing to look for ways to stretch their disposable income. If you are among them, the time is right to take advantage of loyalty programs for every bit of value they offer. Here are some quick tips for doing just that.

Read the fine print and make major finds

Know the terms and conditions of your programs. A quick read of a program’s parameters helps you learn how it fits (or doesn’t fit) your lifestyle. Consider what is relevant to your lifestyle and if the rewards structure meets your needs and preferences.

"Practically all loyalty programs come with soft benefits that add real convenience and save time. Look for add-ons like ease of use, members-only shopping hours and check-in lines, free shipping and special access to events to maximize your time and minimize daily hassles."

Use the cards that count the most

If your wallet is bulging with membership cards, join the club. The average U.S. household belongs to 22 programs, according to the 2013 COLLOQUY Loyalty Census. By spreading your shopping over that many programs, you risk diluting the rewards value you get back. Ask yourself which brands your family likes and uses the most, then pick the best program(s) that fit your lifestyle.

Double your savings with a combo

A loyalty program that doubles earnings in “twofer” deals, for example, helps rack up points fast enough to make adjusting your shopping habits worthwhile. Some grocery memberships do this with fuel programs tied to their in-store pharmacies. Another example is booking a flight with a loyalty program credit card where the purchase awards you both airline points and credit card points.

Treat yourself to experiential benefits

Practically all loyalty programs come with soft benefits that add real convenience and save time. Look for add-ons like ease of use, members-only shopping hours and check-in lines, free shipping and special access to events to maximize your time and minimize daily hassles.

Keep track, keep it simple

It’s back to the basics on this final tip: Once you consolidate your spending to the programs you use the most, be sure to redeem the points you earn. COLLOQUY research shows the average U.S. household active in loyalty programs earns $622 a year in points and miles but fails to redeem $205 of those rewards. Don’t leave money on the table.Consider using the services of rewards-tracking web sites that help consumers manage their points and miles in a central location.

Loyalty programs can boost your ability to buy more for the same or less–that’s the standard fare everyone expects. But if you manage your program mix well, you can add a few extra perks that are the most meaningful to you – because we all deserve something special from time-to-time.