The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is hitting the road for a town hall meeting to learn more about what consumers think of the various financial products they use, including credit cards.

The meeting will take place on Wednesday, October 26 at 6:30 p.m. at the Minneapolis Central Library in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Raj Date, Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury for the bureau will open the meeting with an introduction about the CFPB's mission and its consumer-based initiatives. Directly following will be a community panel and a question and answer session where members of the community may talk about their experiences with credit cards, student loans, mortgages and other financial products.

Those who wish to attend the free event must RSVP to [email protected] with their full name and organizational affiliation (if applicable). For those who can't make it to Minnesota, the CFPB plans to livestream the event on its website.

The CFPB hopes that the feedback it receives at the town hall meeting will bolster its work that it does to protect consumers.

The CFPB is a relatively new agency, having been created in July 2010 after the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was passed. Its goal is to make sure the financial markets present their products in a way that makes them easy for Americans to understand and gives them the ability to comparison shop, in hopes that the country will not have to experience another crisis as the one when the mortgage market collapsed.

The agency is also charged with supervising financial services companies including banks and credit unions and enforcing federal laws around consumer finances, thereby making it the watchdog for consumers in terms of how financial services companies market their products to the general public.

The CFPB has been doing work with student loans, mortgages and credit cards. In terms of credit cards and consumer interaction with them, the CFPB did a one-year follow-up study on the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act), a law that was passed in May 2009, with many of its provisions going into effect in February 2010.

The study found that regulations stipulated in the CARD Act have created a positive impact on consumers' experiences with credit cards in four major ways.

The most noticeable way the CARD Act has affected consumers is by mandating clearer credit card statements. Monthly statements must now include how long it will take to pay off balances if the cardholder only makes the minimum payment and how long it will take to pay the card off in three years. Monthly statements also need to include how much in interest and fees the cardholder has been charged in the current year. Although this has helped clarify statements for most cardholders, the CFPB has found that not all cardholders understand the terms of their credit cards.

Prior to the CARD Act, credit card companies could raise interest rates with little or no notice and apply the new interest rate to existing balances. Now card issuers must give 45 days advance notice of rate increases, allow the cardholder to cancel their account during that time and may not increase rates on existing balances unless the cardholder has missed two consecutive payments. A year later, less than two percent of accounts had interest rate increases, down from 15 percent.

The CARD Act also put practices into place to reduce unfair or excessive late fees. A year later, the regulations helped consumers save $474 million in late fees, with the average late fee declining from $35 to $23.  

Consumers plagued by overlimit fees also may have seen relief due to the CARD Act. Card issuers are no longer allowed to let cardholders spend over their credit limits unless the cardholder specifically opts in to that service. Nor can issuers charge more than one overlimit fee per billing statement. Since being enacted, overlimit fees have dropped from 12 percent to 1 percent of accounts, and while most of the top issuers do allow overlimit transactions, they don't necessarily charge overlimit fees.

The CFPB continues to look for feedback relating to credit card issues. Consumers may submit their feedback at the CFPB Web site.