The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009 doesn't even go into effect until February 2010--but it's already having some unintended consequences. Credit card companies scrambled to hike interest rates before restrictions on rate increases kicks in. Consumers screamed.

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The lenders' immediate increases and the cacophony of consumer complaints caused legislators to consider a 16% maximum rate for credit card interest as well as a $15 cap on late payment fees. But look out! Credit card companies will likely find another strategy to respond to these new reforms and protect their profits.

Credit Card Companies: Either Way, They Make Us Pay

While a credit card rate cap looks good to consumers at first, the backlash by banks and lenders may be more painful that people expect.

Since credit card companies prefer to extend the best credit terms and rates to people with good credit, you can expect fewer loans to be available to consumers with poor or even average credit. Because if you have millions of people looking for credit, and only so much available, and there are limits on what you can charge, why would you ever lend to the people with bad credit? You wouldn't make any more money by doing so, but you'd be taking on more risk.

Credit: Good or Bad, We'll All Be Had

Even cardholders with good or excellent credit may pay more, since the companies must shift higher rates from average or riskier borrowers to those who presently enjoy seven-to-ten percent rates. You can also expect your annual fees to go up as credit card companies could use higher fees to offset a loss in earnings caused by the Credit CARD Act.

Band-aid Reform not Sticking

Certainly regulations to stop and impose penalties on those practicing unfair lending practices are a great start. But someone is going to have to pay for the caps imposed by the credit CARD Act, and it looks like it's going to be us--as usual.

The primary cause of credit problems goes untreated as we continue a culture that worships conspicuous spending and borrowing. Short-sighted parents teach their kids the power of plastic but not the consequences. APRs on outrageous payday loans, borrowing against anticipated tax returns, and pawn shop loans can exceed 400%, and business is booming. Stopgap measures like rate caps just backfire when our deepest credit problems go unsolved.