In Credit Card Processing, High Risk Merchant Account, Small Business Credit Card Processing

If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you have had your merchant account terminated due to what your bank calls a match list or TMF list Match List. If that’s the case, we have good news and bad news. The bad news is something with your account looked similar enough to accounts that are suspected or known to be fraudulent. The good news is, as long as you have not actually committed any fraud with your merchant account, you can probably appeal the listing and have your account reinstated, or apply with an acquiring bank that’s willing to take a closer look at your account history.

In case that wasn’t enough good news, we have even more – the fact is that you’re far from the only merchant who has been hit with a TMF or been put on the MATCH list. Plenty of upstanding merchants just like you have run into this little bump in the road and had their merchant account closed. Many times you won’t even know you have been put on a MATCH list until you apply for a new account and get turned down. At that point they usually will have the reason for the match given to them, clearing up any uncertainty.

Until recently, the first list type was the one most people in this situation were marked. The “MATCH” designation is the newer one.

There are several common ways merchants end up on the Terminated Merchant File (TMF), or “MATCH (Member Alert to Control High-Risk).” There are, in fact, precisely 14 listed reasons that a merchant can get tagged with one of these designations. They are as follows;

Match List Reason Codes

Code Title Explanation
01 Account Data Compromise Account data is stolen from the card-present merchant and used with other merchants
02 Common Point of Purchase Account data is stolen at the Merchant and then used for fraudulent purchases at other Merchant locations
03 Laundering The merchant processed transactions that did not involve a bona fide cardholder
04 Excessive Chargebacks The merchant breached predetermined chargeback thresholds
05 Excessive Fraud The merchant breached predetermined fraud-to-sales dollar volume thresholds
07 Fraud Conviction One of the business’s owners was convicted of criminal fraud
08 Mastercard Questionable Merchant Audit Program The merchant is labeled a “Questionable Merchant,” as determined by MasterCard guidelines
09 Bankruptcy, Liquidation, Insolvency The merchant is unable to discharge all financial obligations
10 Violation of Standards The merchant was in violation of one or more of the card network’s regulations
11 Merchant Collusion The merchant participated in fraudulent collusive activities
12 PCI-DSS Non Compliance The merchant wasn’t compliant with PCI-DSS requirements
13 Illegal Transactions The merchant processed illegal transactions
14 Identity Theft The business owner’s identity is in question

What is “MATCH” & “TMF”?

The MATCH system was created by the Mastercard company. It is essentially a database used to store information about businesses that have had their credit card payment processing permissions frozen or terminated for reasons we will discuss shortly.

The list is used by merchant processing banks in order to filter out applicants who are suspected or known to have engaged in fraudulent activity. Merchant processing banks can also add or remove a merchant from the list if they have reason to do so. In short, it is a blacklist that banks can reference when they are vetting the applications of potential new clients. And, like any blacklist, it is possible to go on it when you do not truly deserve to be on it.

The major downfall of the list is the fact that merchant processing banks are not required to verify that a merchant actually deserves to be on the list or not before adding them to it. They simply see a red flag during the application process and put the merchant on the list defensively. You can think of it as the merchant processing version of “shoot first and let God sort them out.” Yes, it’s harsh- but you do have options if you end up on the list unfairly.

While this might be hard to believe, here is an excerpt from Mastercard’s own ruleset regarding merchants who have or may be reported by Mastercard;

from sec. 11.1 of Mastercard’s Security Rules and Procedures

“Mastercard does not verify, otherwise confirm, or ask for confirmation of either the basis for or accuracy of any information that is reported to or listed in MATCH. It is possible that information has been wrongfully reported or inaccurately reported. It is also possible that facts and circumstances giving rise to a MATCH report may be subject to interpretation and dispute.”

So, once again, we see that the payment processors are holding all the cards. They have full discretion when it comes to whether or not they put you on the list, and your only recourse is to apply for a new account and find out that you’re on the list. Sadly, most credit card processors have a pretty itchy trigger finger when it comes to slapping merchants onto the list. That’s understandable, considering that they have a fair interest in defending themselves from fraud. But it can be tough on merchants when banks are heavy-handed with their power.


What To Do If You Are Placed On MATCH?

If you have been flagged as a high risk merchant account, your business name, your business partners, and your principal all go on the file with you and prevented from opening any new accounts with other payment processors. That means you and virtually everyone you do business with will be marked under “Member Alert to Control High-Risk.”

When an acquiring bank finds that an applicant is on the MATCH list, they have the option to either contact the bank that put the merchant on the list- or they can simply deny the application summarily. This means you have a chance of getting a merchant account if you can convince a new acquiring bank that you were put on the list unfairly.

Most of the time it’s worth it to the bank to make the small effort to check with your last bank and find out whether or not you really belong on the MATCH list. This gives them access to clients that many banks will just dismiss out of hand. In other words, banks that will check with your precious bank have a competitive edge over those that won’t.

Another advantage of finding a merchant processor that’s willing to give you the benefit of the doubt is, they will almost always offer better, more responsive customer service.

Why do Merchants Get Put on the MATCH List?

The most common reasons merchants get put on the list is too many chargebacks. Of course, we know that chargebacks are not always your fault. But if a payment processor sees a large amount of them they may get nervous and flag you. Other common reasons include participating, or appearing to participate in fraudulent activity, and money laundering… (or the appearance of money laundering).

At the end of the day, it’s up to your payment processor as to whether or not they flag you. As we said, they have full discretion to decide to put you on the list or not. We’ve even heard of a few cases where merchants were put on the list for what seemed like spiteful reasons- and that’s not acceptable.

Avoid Unfair MATCHings with Leap Payments

Here at Leap Payments, we always check with your previous bank rather than assume you deserve to be on the MATCH list. If you’ve been blacklisted and apply for an account with us, we will check with your previous bank to see if you were put on for the right reasons- or just because your previous bank had itchy feet that day. We’ve worked with plenty of merchants who were put on the list unfairly, and we’re happy to have their business!

If you’ve been listed unfairly, you can apply with us knowing that you have a fair shot at being approved if you do not deserve to be on the list. Visit our contact page to learn more and apply today.

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