The MATCH List & TMF File – Can You Get Unmatched?

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Last Updated on November 16, 2023 by Corepay

You’ve landed on this page for one or two reasons: you’ve found yourself on the MATCH list (formerly known as the TMF) or have heard about it and are looking to distance yourself from it. When merchants have a chargeback problem, they face several serious consequences: higher processing fees, higher reserves, and then, worst case scenario, the MATCH list.

In this guide, we will tackle everything you need to know about the MATCH list and give you some pointers from our team with 20 years of payment processing experience to avoid landing on it. We have also created a table that breaks down the MATCH list reason codes.

Key Takeaways

  • Mastercard created the MATCH list, a file of high-risk merchants that banks and payment processors use to identify merchants they may not want to do business with.
  • Excessive chargebacks are the most common reason for being on the MATCH list, but other causes include security issues, illegal activity, bankruptcy, identity theft, fraud, or non-compliance.
  • Once placed on the MATCH list, merchants must wait five years before opening another merchant account.
  • You will be deemed a high-risk merchant if placed on the MATCH list.
  • While obtaining a new merchant account becomes an extreme challenge, be upfront with your new processor at the time of application. If you tell them, there won’t be any surprises when speaking with the acquirers.

*At Corepay, we specialize in working with high-risk merchants and can give guidance should you be placed on the MATCH list.

What Is The MATCH List?

By definition, MATCH stands for “Member Alert To Control High-Risk Merchants,” Mastercard created it to flag potential problematic businesses. Merchants on the MATCH list are typically there for persisting chargeback problems or debt owed to the payment processor/bank.

It is important to note that some merchants who land themselves on the MATCH list are reputable businesses that may not have done anything wrong, which we will get to shortly.

Mastercard established the MATCH List as a centralized repository for tracking high-risk merchants, and continues to be actively managed. Regarded as an industry standard, acquiring banks use this list to screen applicants. 

If an applicant is listed on MATCH, the acquirer will likely only accept their application if they specialize in serving high-risk merchants and the specific merchant is processing millions per month. This stringent system makes it nearly impossible for merchants to conceal terminated accounts, posing a significant risk to businesses as being MATCHed typically destroys the entire operation.

Why Was I Placed On The MATCH List?

If you’ve found yourself on the MATCH list, it’s likely due to excessive chargebacks. It’s important to remember that being placed on this list isn’t arbitrary but results from specific actions or patterns that have raised red flags with financial institutions over months to years.

Usually, merchants are placed on the list by their processing bank. This is done after the merchant still needs to take action on several complaints from their processor/bank.

Below, you find a MATCH list reason code table we’ve created that explains why you were placed on the list.

MATCH List Reason Code Table

Match List Reason Code Code Name Explanation
Reason Code 01 Account Data Compromise 
An event leading to the unauthorized access or disclosure of account data, either directly or indirectly.
Reason Code 02 Common Point of Purchase (CPP)  Account data is stolen at the Merchant and then used for fraudulent purchases at other Merchant locations.
Reason Code 03 Laundering  The Merchant participated in laundering activity by presenting invalid transaction records to its Acquirer, misrepresenting sales transactions between the Merchant and a legitimate Cardholder.
Reason Code 04 Excessive Chargebacks The merchant breached predetermined chargeback thresholds (1%)
Reason Code 05 Excessive Fraud The vendor exceeded established thresholds for the ratio of fraud to sales dollar volume.
Reason Code 06 Not In Use To be determined
Reason Code 07 Fraud Convcition One of the proprietors of the business faced criminal fraud convictions.
Reason Code 08 Mastercard Questionable Merchant Audit Program  The Merchant was identified as a Questionable Merchant based on the criteria outlined in the Mastercard Questionable Merchant Audit Program.
Reason Code 09 Bankruptcy/Liquidation/Insolvency  The Merchant was unable or is likely to become unable to discharge its financial obligations.
Reason Code 10 Violation of Standards  In relation to a Merchant reported by a Mastercard Acquirer, the Merchant violated Standards governing procedures for card transactions, including minimum/maximum transaction amounts and prohibited transactions.
Reason Code 11 Merchant Collusion  The Merchant engaged in collusive fraudulent activity.
Reason Code 12 PCI Data Security Standard Noncompliance  The Merchant failed to comply with Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard requirements.
Reason Code 13 Illegal Transactions  The merchant engaged in illegal transactions.
Reason Code 14 Identity Theft  The Acquirer has reason to believe that the identity of the listed Merchant or its principal owner(s) was unlawfully assumed for the purpose of unlawfully entering into a Merchant Agreement.


How Does The Match List Work

  • Acquirer adds terminated merchant to MATCH
  • Acquirer receives merchant reference number
  • To evaluate risk before onboarding a new merchant, acquirer submits merchant MATCH inquiry via API
  • Receive list of matching terminated merchants with MATCH reason code

How Acquirers Utilize the MATCH System

  1. Acquirers and processors must contribute information on terminated merchants as needed.
  2. Acquirers must check the MATCH list before entering into a merchant agreement.
  3. Participation in MATCH is mandatory for all acquirers within the Mastercard network, with non-compliance resulting in assessments and penalties.

Note: While Mastercard manages MATCH, its impact extends to processing abilities for all card brands. Violating Mastercard standards may lead to the denial of processing transactions from multiple card brands during underwriting. 

Mastercard prohibits using the MATCH list as a penalty for minor discretionary activities, strictly enforcing its application only for specified reasons outlined in MATCH reason codes. The comprehensive nature of the MATCH database ensures easy identification of listed businesses and the reasons for their inclusion.

What Are the Implications of Being on the MATCH List?

Inclusion on MATCH signals that an acquirer terminated your merchant agreement with cause, potentially resulting in detrimental repercussions for your business.

Primarily, being MATCHed categorizes you as a “high-risk” merchant. While some processors may accommodate high-risk merchants, not all are willing to bear the additional liability. 

Even if a processor offers high-risk merchant accounts, acceptance is extremely rare. 

Should you secure a high-risk merchant account, anticipate challenges such as:

  1. Extended contract terms
  2. Higher fees for setup, processing, chargebacks, early termination, etc.
  3. Additional requirements for risk monitoring and chargeback management
  4. Mandated reserve account

It’s crucial to recognize MATCH’s purpose—to alert processors about the risk your business poses—while acknowledging that it doesn’t prohibit a processor from working with you.

Can You Get Off The MATCH List?

After five years, merchants will be automatically removed from this list. However, not all merchants can wait five years, as time is of the essence. Here are a few things you can try to get off the list:

PCI-DSS Compliance for MATCH Removal

If your business is listed on MATCH with reason code 12, achieving PCI-DSS compliance enables removal from the database. Once compliant, the acquirer or processor that initially reported your business to MATCH must furnish Mastercard with an attestation confirming your compliance.

This attestation, along with the acquirer’s ID number, necessitates the provision of general business details:

  1. Merchant number
  2. Name
  3. Address
  4. Information about the principal owner

Speak With Your Acquiring Bank And Ask Them To Remove You

While this is a long shot, speaking with your acquirer/payment processor is always best practice to determine what happened and find the reason code.

Chargeback Management To Avoid The MATCH List

We recommend working with a chargeback management team to avoid getting placed on the MATCH list. Our sister company, CB-ALERT, specializes in reducing chargebacks for merchants in high-risk verticals and has offered this advice below:

  1. Use order validation tools and prevention alerts.
  2. Analyze data to detect and resolve chargeback trends.
  3. Practice honest advertising and marketing.
  4. Make customer-friendly policies easily accessible.
  5. Adhere to regional laws and regulations.
  6. Provide accessible and responsive customer service.
  7. Identify and address suspicious orders promptly.
  8. Establish clear customer expectations.
  9. Ensure timely, affordable, and accurate order delivery.
  10. Inform customers about pending and recurring transactions.
  11. Maintain accurate and updated product listings.
  12. Utilize pre-sale tools like AVS and security codes.

Adopting secure business practices helps avoid the MATCH list and minimizes the chances of meeting its criteria.

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