As savers, consumers are stuck with rates on savings accounts, money market accounts and CDs that are near zero. Even with moderate inflation, savings accounts were losing purchasing power, and those losses will accelerate if inflation picks up faster than bank rates rise. So far, that race is simply no contest.

On the borrowing side, consumers are already facing higher mortgage rates. Banks have been quick to raise mortgage rates so they don't get caught short as interest rates rise, and they will be even more aggressive about raising those rates if there is a whiff of inflation in the air.

Looking forward, if interest rates are pushed higher by continued improvement in the economy, that will mean they are being driven by demand, and there are certainly some benefits to that for consumers. However, if rates are pushed higher by inflation, that means they are being driven by fear, and that's not a good situation for consumers.