The MATCH List/TMF File – Ultimate Guide

Have you been placed on the MATCH list or received a warning from your acquirer? You’ve come to the right place.

This page serves as a resource for those on the MATCH list (formerly known as the TMF) or seeking information to navigate away from it. Merchants encountering chargeback issues are met with significant repercussions, including higher processing fees, increased reserves, and placement on the MATCH list in the most severe cases.

This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the MATCH list, offering valuable insights from our team’s two decades of experience in payment processing. Additionally, we present a detailed table outlining the MATCH list reason codes.

Key Takeaways

  • Mastercard created the MATCH list, a compilation of high-risk merchants utilized by banks and payment processors to assess potential business partners.
  • The predominant reason for MATCH list inclusion is excessive chargebacks, although other factors such as security issues, illegal activity, bankruptcy, identity theft, fraud, or noncompliance may contribute.
  • Upon placement on the MATCH list, merchants face a mandatory waiting period of five years before they can consider opening a new merchant account. This categorization as a high-risk merchant carries implications for future business endeavors.
  •  Maintain transparency during any application process by informing the new processor upfront. This proactive approach helps eliminate surprises when engaging with acquirers.
  • Getting approved for a merchant account once placed on the MATCH list is extremely difficult but, in some cases, doable. 
  • We can significantly decrease your chargeback ratio at CB-ALERT and prevent you from ending up on the MATCH list.

What Is The MATCH List?

The MATCH List, an acronym for “Member Alert To Control High-Risk Merchants,” was introduced by Mastercard to identify and flag potentially problematic businesses. Merchants are on the MATCH list primarily due to persistent chargeback issues or outstanding debts to payment processors/banks.

It’s crucial to acknowledge that some businesses appearing on the MATCH list are reputable entities that may not have committed any wrongdoing, a point we will get into shortly.

Mastercard established the MATCH List as a centralized hub dedicated to tracking high-risk merchants and actively managing its content. Widely recognized as an industry standard, acquiring banks leverage this list as a screening tool for potential applicants.

Once placed on the MATCH list, your chances of getting approved for a new merchant account are severely impacted. That said, it can still be done if you’re processing a high monthly volume and can prove you have your chargebacks under control. Should you be approved, it will likely be far above normal pricing as banks and processors take additional risk.

Why Was I Placed On The MATCH List?

If you’ve found yourself on the MATCH list, it’s likely due to excessive chargebacks. It’s important to remember that being placed on this list isn’t arbitrary but results from specific actions or patterns that have raised red flags with financial institutions over months to years.

Usually, merchants are placed on the list by their processing bank. This is done after the Merchant still needs to take action on several complaints from their processor/bank.

Below is a MATCH list reason code table we’ve created that explains why you were placed on the list.

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MATCH List Reason Code Table

Reason Code 01 Account Data Compromise: An event leading to the unauthorized access or disclosure of account data, either directly or indirectly.

Reason Code 02 Common Point of Purchase (CPP): Account data is stolen at the Merchant and then used for fraudulent purchases at other Merchant locations.

Reason Code 03 Laundering: The Merchant participated in laundering activity by presenting invalid transaction records to its Acquirer, misrepresenting sales transactions between the Merchant and a legitimate Cardholder.

Reason Code 04 Excessive Chargeback: The Merchant breached predetermined chargeback thresholds (1%)

Reason Code 05 Excessive Fraud: The vendor exceeded established thresholds for the ratio of fraud to sales dollar volume.

Reason Code 06 Not In Use: To be determined

Reason Code 07 Fraud Conviction: One of the proprietors of the business faced criminal fraud convictions.

Reason Code 08 Mastercard Questionable Merchant Audit Program:  The Merchant was identified as a Questionable Merchant based on the criteria outlined in the Mastercard Questionable Merchant Audit Program.

Reason Code 09 Bankruptcy/Liquidation/Insolvency:  The Merchant was unable or is likely to become unable to pay its financial obligations.

Reason Code 10 Violation of Standards:  In relation to a Merchant reported by a Mastercard Acquirer, the Merchant violated Standards governing procedures for card transactions, including minimum/maximum transaction amounts and prohibited transactions.

Reason Code 11 Merchant Collusion: The Merchant engaged in collusive, fraudulent activity.

Reason Code 12 PCI Data Security Standard Noncompliance:  The Merchant failed to comply with Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard requirements.

Reason Code 13 Illegal Transactions:  The Merchant engaged in illegal transactions.

Reason Code 14 Identity Theft:  The Acquirer has reason to believe that the identity of the listed Merchant or its principal owner(s) was unlawfully assumed to enter into a Merchant Agreement unlawfully.

How Does The Match List Work

Belows a quick rundown on how the MATCH list works:

  • Acquirer adds terminated Merchant to MATCH
  • The Acquirer receives the merchant reference number
  • To evaluate risk before onboarding a new merchant, the Acquirer submits merchant MATCH inquiry via API
  • Receive a list of matching terminated merchants with MATCH reason code

How Acquirers Utilize the MATCH System

  1. Acquirers and processors must contribute information on terminated merchants as needed.
  2. Acquirers must check the MATCH list before entering into a merchant agreement.
  3. Participation in MATCH is mandatory for all acquirers within the Mastercard network, with noncompliance resulting in assessments and penalties.

Note: While Mastercard manages MATCH, its impact extends to processing abilities for all card brands. Violating Mastercard standards may lead to the denial of processing transactions from multiple card brands during underwriting. 

Mastercard prohibits using the MATCH list as a penalty for minor discretionary activities, strictly enforcing its application only for specified reasons outlined in MATCH reason codes. The comprehensive nature of the MATCH database ensures easy identification of listed businesses and the reasons for their inclusion.

What Are the Implications of Being on the MATCH List?

Inclusion on MATCH signals that an acquirer terminated your merchant agreement with cause, potentially resulting in detrimental repercussions for your business.

Primarily, being MATCHed categorizes you as a “high-risk” merchant. While some processors may accommodate high-risk merchants, not all are willing to bear the additional liability. 

Even if a processor offers high-risk merchant accounts, acceptance is extremely rare. 

Should you secure a high-risk merchant account, anticipate challenges such as:

  1. Extended contract terms
  2. Higher fees for setup, processing, chargebacks, early termination, etc.
  3. Additional requirements for risk monitoring and chargeback management
  4. Mandated reserve account

It’s crucial to recognize MATCH’s purpose—to alert processors about the risk your business poses—while acknowledging that it doesn’t prohibit a processor from working with you.

Can You Get Off The MATCH List?

After five years, merchants will be automatically removed from this list. However, not all merchants can wait five years, as time is of the essence. Here are a few things you can try to get off the list:

PCI-DSS Compliance for MATCH Removal

If your business is listed on MATCH with reason code 12, achieving PCI-DSS compliance enables removal from the database. Once compliant, the Acquirer or processor that initially reported your business to MATCH must furnish Mastercard with an attestation confirming your compliance.

This attestation, along with the Acquirer’s ID number, necessitates the provision of general business details:

  1. Merchant number
  2. Name
  3. Address
  4. Information about the principal owner

Speak With Your Acquiring Bank And Ask Them To Remove You

While this is a long shot, speaking with your acquirer/payment processor is always best practice to determine what happened and find the reason code.

Chargeback Management To Avoid The MATCH List

We recommend working with a chargeback management team to avoid getting placed on the MATCH list. At CB-ALERT, we help merchants reduce their chargebacks significantly. Here’s a list of what you can do to avoid the MATCH list.

  1. Use order validation tools and prevention alerts.
  2. Analyze data to detect and resolve chargeback trends.
  3. Practice honest advertising and marketing.
  4. Make customer-friendly policies easily accessible.
  5. Adhere to regional laws and regulations.
  6. Provide accessible and responsive customer service.
  7. Identify and address suspicious orders promptly.
  8. Establish clear customer expectations.
  9. Ensure timely, affordable, and accurate order delivery.
  10. Inform customers about pending and recurring transactions.
  11. Maintain accurate and updated product listings.
  12. Utilize pre-sale tools like AVS and security codes.

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