Consumers may be returning to the simplicity of paying with cash, and wavering on the use of debit cards, as new regulations have created a confusing purchasing environment. A report by Javelin Strategy & Research finds that new regulations on so-called “swipe fees” – the fee banks charge merchants for debit card transactions – is a primary factor for the confusion.

Consumer advocacy groups want prepaid card issuers to provide customers with the type of protections required for debit cards tied to bank accounts. They are calling on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to protect consumers who are relying on general purpose, reloadable prepaid cards for managing their finances during these hard economic times.

Starting today, new regulation drawn up by the Federal Reserve prohibits overdraft fees on consumers using debit or ATM cards – unless the card user has opted to join a bank’s overdraft protection plan. For those who do not “opt-in,” debit card purchases will be denied if you are overdrawn – but no overdraft fees will be imposed.

Some of the nation’s largest banks are about to start charging new checking account fees, and that has prompted Sen. Charles Schumer to ask Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to make sure banking customers will get sufficient and clear notice. The new trend is a response by the banking sector to anticipated declines in revenue from debit card fee restrictions to take effect next week.