MATCH List and Terminated Merchant File (TMF)
Table of Contents
- What Is the MATCH List?
- Why Am I on the MATCH List?
- What Are the Consequences of Being on the MATCH List?
- How Do I Get off the MATCH List?
- How Can I Avoid Being on the MATCH List?
- How Do You Know if You Are on the MATCH List?
- What Does MATCH Stand For?
- How Does Mastercard's MATCH List Work?
There are a number of serious consequences merchants who receive a lot of chargebacks might face. In addition to the revenue lost from the chargebacks themselves and their associated fees, merchants whose chargeback ratio exceeds certain predetermined thresholds can face monthly fines and additional chargeback fees until the situation is rectified. If the problem continues for too long, the merchant's account may be terminated, at which point they will be added to the MATCH list.
Ending up on the MATCH list is a dire fate for any merchant. It shows that you caused so many problems from a previous acquirer that they terminated your account, which means other acquirers will be wary of doing business with you in the future. The best way to avoid the MATCH list is to understand what can cause you to be added to it, how to prevent that from happening, and what to do if you end up on the list despite your best efforts.
What Is the MATCH List?
MATCH is the rebranded version of an older, more aptly named list, the Terminated Merchant File (TMF). It was created by Mastercard to help acquiring banks identify high-risk merchants before entering into merchant agreements with them.
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 will struggle 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 also 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.
Why Am I on the MATCH List?
If your acquirer terminates your merchant account due to excessive chargebacks, Mastercard requires them to add you to the MATCH list. Additionally, there are several other reasons you could be on this list related to security, illegal activity, bankruptcy, fraud, or non-compliance.
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
- 06 Unused
- 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
Unfortunately, some of the reasons a merchant can be placed on the list aren't entirely 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 address entirely 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 customers, 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 e-commerce 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.
Mastercard provides acquirers with guidelines for when a merchant should be added to the MATCH list, but aside from the requirement to add merchants whose accounts have been terminated, the specifics of whether or not to add a particular merchant are largely left up to the bank.
Mastercard doesn't provide much in the way of oversight for these decisions, trusting that it's in the best interests of all acquirers to ensure that the guidelines for the list are followed consistently. Therefore, there's no way for a merchant who feels their acquirer has treated them unfairly to appeal that decision to Mastercard.
What Are the Consequences of Being on the MATCH List?
While losing the ability to open new merchant accounts can pose a problem, a far greater concern is the inability to process credit card payments. Merchants on the MATCH list will have difficulty obtaining payment processing services, and in some cases, they may even be blacklisted by the credit card networks themselves. As you might imagine, being unable to process card payments can often be a death knell for a business.
How Do I Get off the MATCH List?
If you're convinced the reason you were added to the MATCH list is invalid, you can contact your acquirer to make your case. The acquirer may then contact Mastercard and let them know you were added in error. If the reason you were added to the list is genuine, however, the acquirer has no discretion to remove you.
MATCH list entries expire in five years, so if you address the problems that led you to be added to the list, there is light at the end of the tunnel. It's important to note, however, that additional MATCH list entries can be made for the same merchant if further problems occur.
The best thing for merchants on the list to do is to quickly address the problems that led to them being added to the list, thereby avoiding putting any other merchant accounts in jeopardy. A good short-term solution for merchants dealing with excessive chargebacks is the use of chargeback alerts, which can temporarily pause incoming chargebacks to allow the merchant to issue a refund instead. There are also a number of more long-term solutions for preventing chargebacks.
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 and terms you can find and try to address the sources of your chargebacks.
How Can I Avoid Being on the MATCH List?
For most businesses, a chargeback ratio of 0.9% is considered the upper limit on what's acceptable, but since every chargeback can cost you more than twice the original transaction amount when all fees and hidden costs are accounted for, a lower chargeback ratio is always better.
Needless to say, we find it heartbreaking when a merchant ends up on the MATCH list for reason 04 (excessive chargebacks) when there is so much that can be done to prevent that. Merchants should learn about the root causes of chargebacks, improve customer service and other business operations that can lead to chargebacks, and fight them to recover revenue and discourage chargeback fraud.
With proper chargeback management, even merchants operating in industries or using business models that are prone to chargebacks can avoid ending up on the MATCH list. If that seems like an impossible task, contact a chargeback management company to go over your options.
How Do You Know if You Are on the MATCH List?
How Does Mastercard's MATCH List Work?
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