A question plaguing the Obama presidency has become: what has he actually done since he took office? There was the stimulus, there was the plan for withdrawal from Afghanistan...
And there was credit card reform, passed by Congress in May during a time of anti-AIG-bonus rage. It was possibly the most significant piece of legislation, other than the stimulus, that Democrats passed while they had their supermajority rule.
Today, those reforms finally take effect. At the Atlantic Business Channel, Daniel Indiviglio has a rundown of what this will mean for cardholders.
Credit card reform was marred by the nine months it took to go into effect. During that time, credit card companies jacked up rates and lowered credit limits on some cardholders, and the nine-month lag became, in some instances at least, an open window for companies to squeeze their customers.
Realizing this after it had already begun, some lawmakers tried to get the reforms put into effect sooner, but that effort fell by the wayside.
Some big changes take effect today. Credit card companies can no longer arbitrarily raise rates during the first year for a new cardholder; they have to give cardholders 45 days notice before they raise rates or alter terms, and cardholders have the chance to opt out of new agreements; companies can't charge over-the-limit fees unless cardholders have explicitly consented to being allowed to spend over their limits with a fee being applied (otherwise the transaction will simply be denied); card companies have to disclose more information, and there's a mandatory font for applications and disclosures. The list of reforms goes on.
Credit card reform was an important bill for Democrats, and now the reforms are finally being realized. Polling has shown that respondents think the federal government didn't help the little guy enough in responding to the economic crisis; it spoke directly to those concerns.
It addressed economic populism, mistrust of banks, and the palpable sense that middle- and working-class Americans were getting cheated by corrupt higher powers as the economic crisis unfolded.
Whether or not financial reform happens, credit card reform is one economic initiative, besides the stimulus, that Democrats did manage to pass, and it may become a go-to example for Democrats campaigning in 2010.