This month's credit card bills are the first ones I got that carried big new warnings mandated by the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009. When President Obama signed the law he described it "a turning point for American consumers." On the basis of this round of bills I'm not convinced. The main change visible to me is that the bills now carry prominently displayed warnings about the late fees and the payment due dates. It's quite possible that some consumers will react to these warning by being more likely to pay their credit card bills on time. These consumers won't have to pay the late fees and the banks will make less money on fees and on interest that they charge to credit cad customers who carry a balance. That's what Mr. Obama was touting when it came to consumer protection.
But there's a less-obvious possible effect, too -- that people who were already going to pay off their balances in full every month anyway will now pay their credit card bills even earlier within the billing cycle than they otherwise would have, because they really, really don't want to get hit with those scary late fees. The banks will end up benefiting from this, because of the time value of money -- the banks will now get the money earlier than they would have if these consumers had paid their bills later, but still soon enough to prevent the late fees from kicking in.
This demonstrates three points. First, regulations have unintended consequences. Second, the banks figure out a way to make money no matter what the rules are. Third, the press pays a lot of attention when the president signs a law or Congress passes it, but less attention when the law actually starts affecting individual Americans.