Put credit card rewards out of your mind.
Use the cards as you normally would, giving no thought to rewards programs, says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for SmartCredit.com.
Instead of monitoring the rewards account, let it build and make a note to check on it after a few months.
"It's a nice surprise," he says, and you don't end up funding your own credit card rewards program.
When you focus on spending to maximize rewards, there's a good chance you'll start running a balance, says Ulzheimer. When you run a balance, you're paying the credit card issuer far more than you're receiving in rewards -- so that's a losing proposition, he says.
One caveat: Check in often enough that they don't expire, says Josh Frank, senior researcher at the Center for Responsible Lending.
Rewards sometimes have an expiration date and program rules can change. "If you wait long enough, you can have the rules changed on you, and often that's in unfavorable ways," Frank says.