Today, President Obama is expected to sign new legislation that will place limits on the fees and interest rates charged to consumers using credit cards (see WSJ article). While we can argue the benefits and unintended consequences of such legislation (doesn't it seem like we are using the term "unintended consequences" a lot lately), from a trading and investment perspective, there is an expectation that revenue generated by the fees and interest rates - which are now being scaled back - will begin to dry-up for many credit card companies. Subprime borrowers and others holding balances are the cash cows for credit card companies, given that those that don't really need credit tend to use the cards more for convenience, or as a way to gain points and a month of "free" float before paying off their balance in-full.

Estimates have the credit card industry losing $10 billion in revenue from overall interest income. In addition, companies such as Bank of America, Citigroup, Discover, and Capital One Financial are estimated to get between approximately 27-30 percent of their business from subprime customers. Others potentially hit by the new legislation include General Electric - the biggest issuer of private-label cards in the U.S., and Target, which issues its own cards to customers. Unfortunately, Citigroup also issues about 22 percent of all private label cards - not that they need another reason to lose revenue.

While the market still needs to shake out this latest development, it seems that taking away a large source of revenue, and making it more difficult for companies to price their risk, cannot be good for the credit card companies. The general impact on retail sales, increased costs to credit-worthy customers (annual and monthly fees), and the availability of credit for everyone, also seem to be things that cannot be ignored.