What is the Terminated Merchant File (TMF) or MATCH List?

For the financial institutions that offer them, merchant accounts represent a certain level of risk; irresponsible, unreliable or fraudulent merchants can create a financial loss for the processing bank that approved those merchants. In order to protect themselves, many merchant account providers refer to a list known as the Terminated Merchant File (TMF) list when considering new clients. Otherwise known as the MATCH (Merchant Alert To Control High-Risk) list, the Terminated Merchant File or TMF list is a list compiled and managed by MasterCard, of business owners (merchants) whose accounts have been terminated in the past 5 years for any of a variety of reasons.

Why Are Merchants Placed on Terminated Merchant File?

MATCH List Reason Codes

The table below provides the standard reasons that a merchant will be added to the Terminated Merchant File or MATCH list. These are official reasons provided by Mastercard.

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What Happens When You Are Placed on MATCH List or TMF?

Terminated Merchant File Definition

The Terminated Merchant File or TMF is a list compiled and managed by MasterCard, of business owners (merchants) whose accounts have been terminated in the past 5 years for any of a variety of reasons.

As useful as the TMF is to banks and other account providers to protect themselves from approving a merchant who could cause a loss, it can make life quite difficult for a merchant who finds himself listed in the file. Many merchants are unaware that their name even appears on this list until they apply for a new merchant account and are turned down. Because the name of the business, it’s principal signers, and both their addresses are recorded in the MATCH file, a business cannot simply substitute a new signer to get approved elsewhere; a merchant’s problems can even follow them to unrelated business ventures. The TMF effectively works as a blacklist against merchants who banking institutions deem too high-risk – so it’s important to understand how the list is operated and what a merchant can do if they find themselves on it.

TMF-TMF'd-MATCH-Blacklist-Merchant-AccountWhen a merchant whose name appears on the MATCH file applies for a merchant account through a new financial institution, their application will be flagged, and it is likely that the new processing bank will turn down the application, deeming it too high-risk. The processing bank may choose to contact the institution that added the merchant’s name to the list and inquire about the circumstances that led to the account termination. Using that information, they may choose to accept the merchant’s application, reject it, or offer a conditional acceptance with restrictions.

What kinds of problems can cause a merchant to be listed on the TMF?

In short, any sort of activity that causes the account holder to appear to be a bad risk. This can include excessive chargebacks, or excessive fraudulent transactions; noncompliance with PCI-DSS (payment card industry data security standards), the compromise of merchant account data; laundering, fraud, or collusion on the part of the account holder, or evidence that he was engaged in illegal transactions; an inability of the merchant to meet financial obligations due to bankruptcy or insolvency; or evidence that the account was opened fraudulently and that the identity on the account was stolen, lastly a merchant can be listed for violation of standards (agreement).

How Accurate is the Terminated Merchant File?

Though the MATCH system is managed by MasterCard, individual acquiring banks have the power to add or remove the names of merchants from the database if they have justification. There is little oversight in this process; MasterCard explicitly states in its Security Rules and Procedures that it does not attempt to verify the accuracy of, or basis for, the listing of any merchant on the TMF list, and that the data contained therein may be inaccurate or the circumstances giving rise to a merchant’s inclusion on the list may be under dispute.

How Do I Remove My Name From the TMF or MATCH list?

It can be hard for a merchant to get his or her name off the TMF list, depending on the reason he or she was listed initially – fraud is a particularly difficult hurdle to overcome. The only recourse is to contact the banking institution that listed you in the first place and try to resolve whatever issue led to the termination; only the processing bank that placed you on the TMF has the power to remove your name. Alternatively, if you feel the TMF listing is unfair, there are lawyers who specialize in this niche. Otherwise, your listing will remain active for five years.

Here at Durango Merchant Services we are often able to assist merchants that may be on the TMF list, however each case is unique. Please inquire with us about the processing options for your business.

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