The Infamous Match / Terminated
Merchant File (TMF)
What is the MATCH / TMF File?
When consumers do not honor the terms of their credit agreements,
the creditor may report the default to a credit reporting agency.
If the consumer applies for additional credit, the new creditor
obtains a credit report and learns about the consumer’s previous
history. The merchant processing banks (also known as "acquiring"
banks) do not have a similar credit-reporting agency available that
can report information about the way that a business handles its
merchant processing responsibilities. The card associations, instead,
use a file known as "MATCH." The MATCH File is a database
file, previously and most commonly known as the Terminated Merchant
File "TMF." This file is used by MasterCard and Visa processing
banks, known as "acquiring banks," to identify specific
merchants and principals who have already been terminated. Once
a merchant is on this list it is highly unlikely that future merchant
account applications will be approved. The "TMF", or MATCH
list, is essentially a BLACKLIST from which it is almost impossible
to be removed.
How exactly is the MATCH file used when I apply
for a Merchant Account?
Your new merchant acquiring bank must query the MATCH file to determine
whether your company, or its principals, has been terminated. If
your new acquirer receives a response indicating a "possible
match" against a merchant or individual listed on the file,
the acquirer must double check and make certain the listed merchant
or individual is truly the same as the one for which the inquiry
was generated. If so, the acquirer must contact the listing bank
to determine why the business or individual was added to the file.
If a previous acquirer listed your business or your name, that
does not mean you are prohibited from obtaining merchant processing
privileges in the future. The new acquirer is to base its approval
decision on complete investigation and to use the MATCH file as
an informational tool in the decision making process. Some acquirers
will issue an approval conditioned upon having the listing removed
by the prior processor while others will review the circumstances
surrounding the listing and make an informed decision.
What if my Merchant Account is terminated?
It is very important to read your merchant processing agreement
and understand the circumstances under which your processing privileges
may be terminated; in some instances immediately. When your acquirer
notifies you of intent to terminate your account, the acquirer is
required to list your business and principal names on the terminated
"MATCH" file. There are eight instances in which that
listing is required on the same day as the notification:
- The merchant has been convicted of credit card fraud
- The merchant deposited sales that were not authorized by cardholders;
most typically in a card not present environment with reoccurring
- The merchant deposited transaction that were for sales generated
by another business (known as laundering.) Oftentimes, this seems
like an innocent practice of one business owner helping another;
it is a violation of Visa and MasterCard rules.
- The acquirer has received an excessive number of cardholder
chargebacks due to the merchant’s practices. This is by
far the most common reason for termination.
- As a result of an audit or investigation, the acquirer identifies
the merchant as having excessive fraudulent activity.
- The acquirer concludes that serious violations of the merchant
agreement could result in increased loss exposure to itself or
the credit card community.
- The merchant deposited an excessive number of counterfeit sales.
- The acquirer learns from Visa USA or MasterCard International
that the merchant has been identified as having excessive fraudulent
The acquirer listing will include the business name as well as
the name and identification of the business principals. If the termination
was for reasons other than the eight listed above, the acquirer
has until the next day to add the merchant and principal to the
Is there a way to get out of the MATCH list?
If you believe your business or name has been erroneously added
to the MATCH file, you must work with the acquirer that added the
listing to the file. Only that acquirer is authorized to request
a change or deletion of the information. If your counsel is unfamiliar
with the credit card industry or Visa and MasterCard associations,
you may want to consider consulting with a firm specializing in
If the listing acquirer recognizes that the listing was in error,
that acquirer must request the file correction immediately upon
recognition of the error. Obvious examples would include the wrong
business and principal names but could also include termination
for reasons that would not warrant a public listing (e.g.. inactivity,
etc.) An error does not include an unresolved dispute over the definition
of "excessive chargebacks" and other violations.
To request a change or deletion, the listing bank submits its request
to MasterCard International, in Purchase New York. The designated
individual at MasterCard will review the merchant’s explanation
and listing bank’s justification for change or removal from
the listing. MasterCard International reserves the right to deny
the request. The listing bank must sincerely explain its reason
for the deletion.
The process with which one gets on the MATCH
list does not sound fair, is it?
The acquiring bank that adds or removes a merchant or
individual from the MATCH file must take care to do so in a responsible
manner. A knee jerk addition of a merchant or individual to the
listing can result in unwarranted business difficulty to the listed
business and owner. (It can be similar to a creditor reporting wrong
information about your credit history) Likewise, failure to list
a "problem merchant" means the acquirer is not living
up to the responsibilities to forewarn its fellow Visa and MasterCard
The decision to list, not to list and whether to remove is to be
taken very seriously by the acquirer. In fact, a Visa member who
fails to comply with listing requirements could be held liable for
the losses incurred by another acquiring bank for failure to list.
On the other hand, Visa requires the acquirer to indemnify Visa
for all claims resulting from its erroneous addition to, or deletion
from or failure to remove from the MATCH listing when required.
Do you have any advice for me to avoid getting
on the MATCH list?
It is an understatement to conclude that the listing of your business
or name in MATCH file is a very serious matter. The card associations
hold the acquiring bank accountable for the processing activity
flowing through your merchant processing account. Once chargeback
levels increase and/or suspicious activity occurs, it is critical
for business owners to resolve the matter at once. With delays and
at some point, the acquiring bank runs out of options and is required
to terminate and list the merchant and individual.
We have always found that correcting the cause of consumer disputes,
chargebacks and suspicious activity is a less expensive and more
permanent choice. Every merchant, once facing the difficulty of
being "listed", wishes he had been as forceful in correcting
the practices as he was in resisting the credit card rules. Termination
and listing can cost you your business.
Here are some additional guidelines:
Comply with the rules so that your business
can continue to grow and prosper!
- Do not go over your officially authorized maximum ticket without
permission from your Merchant Processor. Likewise, do not exceed
your authorized monthly maximum sales without advaced permission
from your Merchant Processor (acquirer).
- Provide your customers with timely and accurate debit information.
Be sure that it is easy for them to reach you with any of their
questions, concerns or complaints.
- Make sure you have a Customer Support phone number appearing
on your customers' monthly statements. If they don't recognize
your debit they should call you FIRST before they mistakenly deny
the charge. This can head off unnecessary chargebacks to your
account and help keep your account out of trouble.
- Stay in touch with your customers using any means available.
Send E-mail, make phone calls, send newsletters. The more they
know you the better they will feel about you and your business.
Provide GREAT customers service. Give them service equal to or
better than the service that YOU would like to receive yourself.
- Be friendly and courteous in all regards. Always put the customer
first. Show them how they may save money or save time. Make good
suggestions as though you were a member of their family.
- Don't be short-sighted. Consider your business a long-term enterprise.
Make your long term goals more important than quick short term
profits that will benefit you more than your customer.
- Lastly, if you're seriously looking for a really fine and low
cost Merchant Account Vendor be sure to visit Echo-inc.Com, we
are one of their authorized affiliates. Echo-inc.Com is a major
Internet provider of truly low cost merchant credit card accounts,
perhaps the best and lowest cost provider in a category overflowing