Mastercard MATCH List: Are You On It?
Some lists bring companies prestige for years to come—Fortune 500, Forbes' Global 2000—and others (like the MATCH List) bring them to their knees in seconds. To understand what the Mastercard MATCH List is, you first need to understand where it came from. MATCH is the rebranded overhaul of an older, more aptly named list, the Terminated Merchant File.
Here's what you need to know...
MATCH stands for “Member Alert To Control High-risk merchants.” It was created by Mastercard to help acquiring banks identify high-risk merchants before entering into merchant agreements with them. When an acquirer terminates a merchant file for certain specified reasons, they may submit that merchant’s information, in accordance with Mastercard’s rules, to the MATCH list. If the merchant attempts to open a new merchant account for credit card processing with a new acquiring bank, that bank can consult the MATCH list and see that their potential new client is considered too “high risk” to do business with.
Hopefully, you’re not on the MATCH list, and if you aren’t, you want to keep things that way. The best way to do that is to be fully educated about what criteria can get you placed on the MATCH list, what you can do if you end up on it despite your best efforts, and how to avoid ending up in that scenario.
What Earns You A Spot On The MATCH List?
Not all merchants who have their accounts terminated will be added to the MATCH List; only some issues and practices are considered sufficient cause for placement on the list. Every merchant on the MATCH List is assigned a reason code that explains why they’re on it:
- 01 Account Data Compromise
- 02 Common Point of Purchase
- 03 Laundering
- 04 Excessive Chargebacks
- 05 Excessive Fraud
- 07 Fraud Conviction
- 08 Mastercard Questionable Merchant Audit Program
- 09 Bankruptcy/Liquidation/Insolvency
- 10 Violation of Standards
- 11 Merchant Collusion
- 12 PCI-DSS Non-compliance
- 13 Illegal Transactions
- 14 Identity Theft
Some of these aren’t entirely the merchant’s fault, or completely under their control. Identity theft and account breaches in which the merchant is the victim, for example, fall under reason codes 01, 02, and 14. Other reason codes speak to quite understandable reasons for cutting a merchant off from their credit card processor, like participating in money-laundering schemes, colluding with other merchants to fix prices or otherwise cheat consumers, or failing to comply with important data security regulations.
Then there are the reason codes that apply to merchants who are unable to keep up with the unrelenting barrage of chargebacks and fraud attempts that the ecommerce companies of today are constantly dealing with.
Fraud and chargebacks can hit even the most scrupulous, honest merchants, but there are ways to fight and prevent them.
The MATCH List is just one more reason why keeping up this fight is so important for merchants.
While Mastercard does have clear rules and requirements about what qualifies a merchant for the MATCH List, placement is largely at the discretion of the acquiring banks and is not subject to a great deal of oversight from Mastercard.
What Happens When You’re On The MATCH list?
While being on the MATCH list won’t cause you to lose any currently active merchant accounts in good standing, the most serious consequence is that you won’t be able to open any new ones while you’re on it. Mastercard’s acquirers are required to consult the list before onboarding a new merchant, and in the vast majority of cases they will flat-out reject any merchant on it. Some payment processors that specialize in handling high-risk accounts will accept these merchants, but they will charge exorbitant rates for their services.
There’s no formal notification process when a merchant is placed on the MATCH list. Most of them only find out they’re on it when they apply for a new account and get rejected.
How do you get off the MATCH List?
Obviously, with all you’ve heard about the MATCH list so far, the first thing you’ll want to do if you find out you’re on it is to get off of it as soon as possible. Unfortunately, getting off the MATCH list isn’t easy. There’s one surefire way, though, and that’s to be patient—MATCH list entries expire after five years.
If you’re on the list because of reason code 12, you’re in luck: becoming compliant with PCI-DSS can get you off the list. For any other reason code, there’s really no recourse for merchants, unless they can convince the acquiring bank that put them on the list to contact Mastercard and explain that they made the addition in error.
The best thing for merchants on the list to do is to be extremely careful about avoiding bad or careless practices that jeopardize any remaining active accounts.
It’s also important to avoid engaging in any activities that might earn them another entry on the list, since that would reset the five-year expiration clock.
If you’re on the list and you absolutely must open a new merchant account, you’re likely to be stuck with one of the very expensive “high risk” processors—all you can do is look for the best provider/terms you can find and try to address the sources of your chargebacks.
Best Practices To Avoid Being On The MATCH List
For the most part, you can avoid the MATCH list by adhering to quality business practices. You want to focus on the things that are under your control as a merchant: maintaining compliance with standards and regulations, taking proactive steps to prevent and reduce fraud, and of course, doing everything you can to stop chargebacks from occurring and fighting them when they cannot be avoided.
Needless to say, we find it heartbreaking when a merchant ends up on the MATCH list for reason 04 (Excessive Chargebacks) when there is much that can be done to learn about the root causes of chargebacks, improve customer service and other business operations that can lead to chargebacks, and fight them so that they get reversed and do not get counted against the merchant.
Chargebacks can be one of the easiest ways to get on the MATCH list, but they’re also one of the risk factors that merchants can get under control if they’re willing to make the effort, educate themselves, and work with experts who know how to prevent and fight them.
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