The MATCH list is something that many people learn about for the first time when they discover they are on it. Unfortunately, you’re not the only merchant who was unprepared. In reality, most merchants won’t be aware that they are on the list until they apply for a merchant account to a new processor and are rejected. When that happens, it’s too late to escape being added to the list; your only option is to work toward removing yourself from it.
This article examines what it means to be on the MATCH list. It also looks at how businesses become listed in the first place and, perhaps most crucially, what it takes to get a business taken off the list.
What Is the Mastercard MATCH List?
The MATCH list keeps track of merchants deemed to pose an unacceptable level of risk. Use this list to avoid doing business with certain merchants, payment processors, banks, and other financial institutions.
The Terminated Merchant File (TMF) is an older list relaunched as MATCH. TMF was once the most widely used abbreviation, and some still use it to refer to the list. There are some differences between both programs; for instance, the MATCH list is more comprehensive. However, since the underlying idea is the same, both terms are often used in the same context.
Mastercard developed MATCH to give acquiring banks a way to identify high-risk merchants before engaging in merchant agreements. Being on the MATCH list can potentially result in you losing any active, legitimate merchant accounts you presently have, and it will make it impossible for you to open any new ones.
Before onboarding a new merchant, Mastercard’s acquirers are required to review the list, and in most cases, they will outright reject any merchant on it. These merchants will be accepted by some payment processors who specialize in managing high-risk accounts, but they will also be charged expensive fees for their services.
When a merchant is added to the MATCH list, there is no official notification process. Most of them discover they’re on it when they submit an application for a new account and are denied.
How Can Merchants Be Added to the MATCH List?
Excessive chargebacks are the most commonly cited reason for a merchant to end up on the MATCH list. The likelihood of having your business MATCHED is high for merchants who consistently exceed the authorized chargeback thresholds. Although your acquiring bank will likely do this, Mastercard will occasionally add you to the list.
Mastercard compels your acquirer to include you on the MATCH list if they close your merchant account due to too many chargebacks. You might also be on this list for several other reasons, including fraud, security, bankruptcy, unlawful activities, or non-compliance.
Each merchant on the MATCH list is given a reason code that outlines their inclusion there:
- Reason Code 01. Account Data Compromise: It’s possible that the merchant purposefully or unintentionally permitted unauthorized access to account information.
- Reason Code 02. Common Point of Purchase: Data stolen from a merchant’s system is used to make fraudulent transactions.
- Reason Code 03. Laundering: The merchant carried out transactions without a legitimate cardholder’s involvement.
- Reason Code 04. Excessive Chargebacks: The merchant exceeded established chargeback thresholds.
- Reason Code 05. Excessive Fraud: The merchant’s sales volume thresholds for the ratio of fraud to sales were exceeded.
- Reason Code 07. Fraud Conviction: One of the business owners was found guilty of criminal fraud.
- Reason Code 08. Mastercard Questionable Merchant Audit Program: According to MasterCard guidelines, the merchant has been labeled “Questionable.”
- Reason Code 09. Bankruptcy, Insolvency, Liquidation: The business cannot pay off all of its debts.
- Reason Code 10. Violation of Standards: The merchant breached one or more rules imposed by the card network.
- Reason Code 11. Merchant Collusion: The merchant engaged in illegal collusive activities.
- Reason Code 12. PCI-DSS Non-compliance: The merchant did not meet the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard requirements.
- Reason Code 13. Illegal Transactions: The merchant handled unlawful transactions.
- Reason Code 14. Identity Theft: The identity of the business owner is in doubt.
It is clear why the reason codes would cause banks to have problems. The merchant may not have any control over some of the reason codes, such as the theft of the merchant’s identity and use of it for a fraudulent merchant account.
Meanwhile, other reason codes cover reasonable justifications for limiting or denying a merchant’s access to their credit card processor. Some of them include conspiring with other merchants to fix prices or defraud customers in other ways, taking part in money-laundering schemes, or disregarding crucial data security regulations.
Mastercard gives acquirers instructions on when to add a merchant to the MATCH list. Whether or not to add a certain merchant is mostly left up to the bank, except for the necessity to include merchants whose accounts have been canceled.
To ensure that the rules for the list are consistently followed, Mastercard doesn’t provide much monitoring for these decisions, believing that it’s in the best interests of all acquirers. Therefore, a merchant who thinks their acquirer treated them unfairly has no option but to appeal that decision to Mastercard.
Consequences of Being in a MATCH List
Your merchant account being terminated by an acquiring bank raises serious red flags for other financial institutions. You’ll be classified as a high-risk merchant, and many establishments won’t work with you.
As previously mentioned, an acquirer must add a business to the MATCH list when it closes a merchant account for MATCH list-related reasons. Having said that, getting MATCHed does not automatically prevent a merchant from having a merchant account.
When a merchant’s name appears on the MATCH list, it serves as a warning regarding possible risk exposure, and the acquirer takes that risk into account before approving an account for the merchant. Some acquirers – usually overseas payment processors or domestic providers of high-risk accounts – might feel that the risk involved in working with the merchant is worthwhile.
As you might expect, a business’s inability to accept credit cards can spell its demise. The inability to handle credit card payments is much more problematic than losing the ability to register new merchant accounts. The MATCH list will make it difficult for businesses to get payment processing services, and in some situations, the credit card networks may block them.
Can Someone Be Added to the Match List By Accident?
Yes, but it’s not frequent. Due to a typing error or miscommunication, a merchant may occasionally find themselves on the Mastercard MATCH list. A merchant will typically not even be aware that their business is on the list until it cannot accept credit card payments.
If a merchant believes their business was mistakenly included in the MATCH list, they should contact the acquiring bank by phone or email and explain their situation. Most likely, the acquiring bank will look into the situation. Consequently, if a mistake is made, it will be fixed.
How to Get Off the MATCH List
The MATCH list can be removed in only three different ways. If a business wants to be taken off the Mastercard MATCH list, it must:
- Have been included on the MATCH list for more than five years. (SRP, Rule 11.2.6)
- Accidentally been added to the list (SRP, Rule 11.4)
- Have since become compliant after being added to the list due to PCI non-compliance (SRP, Rule 11.4)
These are the only circumstances that merchants can get off a MATCH list. Highlighted below are the general details of these reasons.
5 Year Wait
The MATCH system keeps track of merchant information for five years. MATCH automatically deletes data that has been in the system for five years every month. Although most merchants won’t find this the best option, you can at least be confident that you won’t be on the MATCH list indefinitely.
If Listed Accidentally
If you were unintentionally added to it, you must get in touch with the acquiring bank that placed you on the list. Ask your payment processor if you are unsure of which bank served as your acquiring bank. Ensure you have strong proof that you’ve been operating legally before pursuing this.
You can certainly perform this yourself, but a high-risk processor can sometimes assist you. Some have expertise in removing people from the MATCH list and can likely tell you immediately what your chances are, thanks to that experience.
If a high-risk processor cannot assist you, a lawyer may be able to; nevertheless, you should be aware of their limitations. Even though they would be more persuasive in their defense if you were mistakenly included on the MATCH list, they will be powerless to remove you if you were added because you truly broke one of the list’s rules.
The third and last reason you might be removed from the MATCH list is if you were on it because you weren’t PCI compliant but afterward became so. In most cases, you’ll still need to contact the acquirer who added you to the list, but in this specific case, if your old acquirer is unwilling to assist, you can contact Mastercard directly.
The most crucial piece of information you’ll need to remove your name from the list is a letter or certificate of validation from a forensic examiner certified by Mastercard. This document will confirm that you are now PCI compliant. Also required are the following:
- Acquirer identification number
- Merchant identification number
- Merchant DBA name (if applicable)
- Merchant name
- Business address (including the name of the country)
- Information on the business owner ( country of residence, first and last name)
Time is ultimately the only surefire way to resolve this. MATCH-listed merchants may need to improve their business models to offset greater processing costs if they want to survive the term. They must also reduce risk as much as possible since every time an account is terminated, the five-year clock resets.
How to Avoid Being on the MATCH List
Most of the time, merchants may prevent their names from being added to the MATCH list by adhering to all standards and laws and keeping their chargeback and fraud rates at a minimum.
A chargeback ratio of 0.9% is generally regarded as the higher limit for what is acceptable, but since each chargeback can end up costing you more than twice as much as the initial transaction when all fees and other costs are considered, a lower chargeback ratio is always preferable.
It is disappointing when a merchant is placed on the MATCH list for code 04 (excessive chargebacks), even if several things may be done to avoid it. To recover revenue and prevent chargeback fraud, merchants should educate themselves about the causes of chargebacks, improve customer experience, and implement other critical business processes to prevent chargebacks.
Even businesses working in chargeback-prone sectors or with chargeback-prone business practices might avoid being on the MATCH list with good chargeback management. You can contact a chargeback management business to discuss your choices if it sounds like an impossible effort.
Alternative Methods of Payment for MATCH List Merchants
If it’s proving too tough to find a credit card payment processor and you’re on the Mastercard MATCH list, you may decide to forego it completely. Here are two payment options that high-risk merchants might accept in place of credit cards.
Processing eCheck payments have various advantages, particularly for businesses that use subscription or recurring payments. Since the transaction funds are deposited directly into the business bank accounts, eCheck payments for high-risk firms don’t need a merchant account. eChecks are a great payment alternative to take into account if you are experiencing trouble opening a merchant account.
Transactions involving cryptocurrencies are peer-to-peer transfers between users’ wallets. As a result, cryptocurrency funds are transferred straight into the merchant’s crypto wallet rather than into a merchant account, which avoids the requirement for a merchant account like eChecks. The drawback of cryptocurrencies is that they are more volatile than traditional currencies. But this cutting-edge payment system might be the best option for companies without access to merchant accounts, particularly those whose target market has embraced cryptocurrency.
- P2P Wallet Apps
P2P payments are supported by the majority of popular mobile wallets, including Apple Pay, Venmo, Samsung Pay, Google Pay, and Square’s Cash App. Usually, you may submit a payment request to the payor and have them pay by pressing a single button. No one would bother to check your business against the MATCH list because money is exchanged between two account holders of the same service. Therefore, there is no need to set up the account through an acquiring bank.
As a merchant, being added to a MATCH list might haunt your business for years. Therefore, it is in your best interests to avoid being listed by being trustworthy, diligent, and adhering to the latest PCI standards.
If your name was added to the list and you are innocent, you should argue your case and try to have it removed. If not, you can still accept payments through processors focusing on high-risk merchant accounts.