For merchants, an appearance on the MATCH list, previously called the Terminated Merchant File (TMF), can be akin to a financial death sentence. If businesses, or their principal owners, have been found to abuse merchant accounts in the past, they may find it impossible to process credit cards through any other processing companies. Processors and the banks behind them are ultimately responsible for the costs of fraud and account abuse, so they have a vested interest in ensuring that every merchant in their network is trustworthy. MasterCard and Visa Processing banks all subscribe to the MATCH list, and are obligated to check against this blacklist whenever a new account application is issued.
The term MATCH is an acronym for Member Alert To Control High Risk, and in a nutshell it lists all merchants who were terminated for cause. In the retail banking world, there is a similar concept known as the CHEX system, which prevents people from opening bank accounts if they have previously closed other accounts with a negative balance, or who have used bank accounts in a suspicious or illegal manner. Merchant account banking services have created the MATCH system for similar reasons, especially since credit card processing accounts are far more powerful than the average checking account. What makes the MATCH file an even bigger danger for merchants is that in some cases their spouses also can’t get certified to process transactions because banks believe the listed spouse may be a silent partner. New entities that may share the previous address and/or ownership of a listed party may also be considered suspicious.
How do businesses and individuals get added to the MATCH list? Some of the most common reasons for inclusion on the list are conviction for credit card fraud, depositing sales that were not authorized, laundering sales generated by another business, excessive chargebacks or fraud, counterfeit sales, or serious violations of the merchant account. You can also get flagged if you exceed authorized sales amounts without permission from your acquiring bank. If your business suffers a data breach, and you are unable to pay all the expenses/fines related to a forensic audit and remediation, you are likely going to end up on the list, even if you go bankrupt. It is very important to understand account rules in order to avoid being listed. For example, if you try to “loan” money to your business by making a large charge on your individual credit card, you can lose your merchant account and get on the list. You can also get on the list if you close a business and forget to pay the fees from the final merchant statement.
How can you get removed from the MATCH list? It is very difficult to be taken out of the MATCH file unless you can show that your business (or a principal) was added in error. You may also be able to show that your account was terminated for a reason that should not have resulted in listing. As a merchant, you are required to work with the acquirer/bank that added your listing, and then that party will request a change or deletion. It should be noted that this process almost always involves attorneys and they should be familiar with credit card association rules. Whether or not you are in the MATCH file or its Terminated Merchant File predecessor, there is a good deal of work involved in the appeal process.
As a merchant, you want to take every step possible to stay out of the MATCH file. As a low risk processor, Capital Processing Network is generally unable to qualify merchants who are already listed, and most high risk processors will also be unable to provide accounts for such merchants. Credit card processing accounts are the lifeblood of small businesses (and big ones!) and need to be seen as a long-term asset. Merchants can avoid the chance of being listed by preventing chargebacks, reducing the potential for fraud, and following the requirements that are set by card processing companies. For the average merchant, this just involves operating an above-board company and keeping customers satisfied. Most chargebacks are prevented through customer satisfaction, and fraud is controlled through vigilance and adherence to PCI-DSS requirements. If you ever are curious about an unusual merchant processing practice, or a financial trick that seems “too good to be true,” then it pays to contact your merchant customer service department and ask questions. Remember that MATCH file and TMF list information could prevent you from ever again getting a merchant account, so this is one instance in business where the biggest reward comes from taking the fewest risks.