Obama: Legislate Credit Cards, Now

The president calls for simpler language and fewer rate hikes.

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President Obama lent his weight to credit card reform yesterday as he met with credit card company executives. Obama said he wants credit card fees and policies to be explained in language anyone could understand and to put an end to unexpected hikes in interest rates. "Every credit card issuer has to issue a plain vanilla easy-to-understand, simplest possible credit card that would be the default credit card that the average user can feel comfortable with," he said.

While certain members of Congress, most notably Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Sen. Ron Wyden, have been pushing for credit card reform for over a year, the issue had largely fallen from public view as attention shifted to the election, wars, and recession. But now, with more people being hit with higher interest rates and lower credit limits, more people (and politicians) seem ready to agitate for change. (Obama was also one of the early supporters of credit reform; when he was a senator, he teamed up with Wyden to propose legislation that would give credit cards a five-star rating system.)

With Obama calling for the quick passage of the credit card reform bill currently moving through Congress, this might be the chance for reform advocates to make their move. But they still have to fight the powerful financial services lobby, which argues that limits on fees and interest rate hikes will only serve to reduce the amount of credit offered to lower-income individuals.