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MATCH List

The MATCH List: What it Means to Be Listed (and How to Avoid it)

Mastercard’s MATCH List usually means trouble for merchants who end up there. While the name may sound like a dating site or a game show, being on the list is serious: it indicates that a merchant poses an above-average risk for acquirers.

For financial institutions, the MATCH List serves as a warning system against false merchant account information. For the merchant, however, being on the list can make it much more difficult to open a new merchant account, even with a different acquirer.

In this post, we’ll look at what it means to be on the MATCH List. We’ll examine how merchants get there in the first place, and perhaps most importantly, what it will take to get a business removed from the listing.

What’s MATCH?

MATCH List

[noun]/* mætʃ ● lɪst/

The MATCH (Member Alert to Control High-Risk Merchants) List is a comprehensive database, created and managed by Mastercard. Acquiring banks may reference the MATCH List to screen merchant applicants and determine the risk they pose prior to providing a merchant account.

The MATCH file is essentially a detailed electronic list of businesses that have had one or more merchant accounts terminated by their acquiring bank. That’s good information to have since merchants with canceled accounts on their record are typically perceived as “high risk.”

Mastercard developed the MATCH List to keep track of these risky merchants in a centralized location, and they still administer it today. Considered the industry standard, the list is used by acquiring banks to help screen applicants. This effectively makes it impossible for merchants to hide canceled accounts.

The MATCH list is an updated version of something called the Terminated Merchant File (TMF). At one point, TMF was the most common terminology, and there are still people who refer to the list by that name. There are differences between the two programs; for example, the MATCH List is more comprehensive. However, the basic concept is the same, so the terms are often used interchangeably.

Why Am I on the MATCH List?

Merchants can be put on the MATCH list by Mastercard, but most are added by the acquiring bank. There have always been specific conditions for being MATCHed; at one point, Mastercard did not appear to be overly concerned as to whether or not those conditions were actually being met. In fact, the card network went so far as to give notice in its Security Rules and Procedures that the information used in the MATCH List had not been verified.

As a result, it was a little easier for a merchant to end up on the list, even if the inclusion wasn’t merited. Mastercard has since become more stringent with their policies: today, merchants can only be MATCHed by an acquirer for specific reasons.

The most common cause of a merchant landing on the MATCH List is excessive chargebacks. Merchants who regularly exceed the acceptable chargeback thresholds will most likely see their business MATCHed.

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Other conditions and practices that can lead to this are categorized with a specific MATCH list reason code for each offense. These are not to be confused with chargeback reason codes, which are a separate thing. MATCH List reason codes can include anything from insufficient or ineffective security measures that result in data compromises, to merchants engaging in illegal activities such as fraud or money laundering.

According to Mastercard’s Security Rules and Procedures, if the acquirer terminates a merchant relationship based on one of these conditions, the bank is then obligated to add that merchant to the MATCH list, within five days of termination.

MATCH List Reason Code Title Explanation

Reason Code 01

Account Data Compromise Account data is stolen from the card-present merchant and used with other merchants

Reason Code 02

Common Point of Purchase Account data is stolen from the card-present merchant and used with other merchants

Reason Code 03

Laundering The merchant processed transactions that did not involve a bona fide cardholder

Reason Code 04

Excessive Chargebacks The merchant breached predetermined chargeback thresholds

Reason Code 05

Excessive Fraud The merchant breached predetermined fraud-to-sales dollar volume thresholds

Reason Code 06

Currently unused --

Reason Code 07

Fraud Conviction One of the business's owners was convicted of criminal fraud

Reason Code 08

Mastercard Questionable Merchant Audit Program The merchant is labeled a “Questionable Merchant,” as determined by MasterCard guidelines

Reason Code 09

Bankruptcy, Liquidation, Insolvency The merchant is unable to discharge all financial obligations

Reason Code 10

Violation of Standards The merchant was in violation of one or more of the card network’s regulations

Reason Code 11

Merchant Collusion The merchant participated in fraudulent collusive activities

Reason Code 12

PCI-DSS Noncompliance The merchant wasn’t compliant with PCI-DSS requirements

Reason Code 13

Illegal Transactions The merchant processed illegal transactions

Reason Code 14

Identity Theft The business owner’s identity is in question

It’s easy to understand why banks would have issues with the above behavior. However, some of the items—the merchant’s identity being stolen and used for a fraudulent merchant account, for example—may actually be beyond the merchant’s control.

Unfortunately, that won’t alter the process. Additions to the MATCH list are mandated by Mastercard, and primarily made by the acquirer that canceled the account. Merchants have no say in the manner.

What Is the Impact of Being MATCH-Listed?

The MATCH list is a powerful reference tool for financial institutions. It contains data that has been reported and stored during the previous five years. In other words, any merchant added in the last 60 months will generate a MATCH result.

As we mentioned, an acquirer who terminates a merchant account for MATCH list reasons is required to add that business to the MATCH list. That said, however, being MATCHed does not necessarily mean a merchant cannot have a merchant account.

A spot on the MATCH list is a warning about the potential risk levels of a merchant, and the acquirer takes that risk into consideration before granting the merchant an account. Some acquirers—typically an offshore payment processor or a domestic high-risk account provider—may decide the merchant is worth the risk.

Of course, the merchant may end up applying to several acquirers before getting accepted, and there will be other complications, as well. An acquirer willing to work with a MATCH-listed merchant will generally only do so for a higher processing fee. A reserve account may also be required, and the merchant can also expect to sign a long-term contract, with stiff penalties for early termination.

Working with a high-risk processor isn’t ideal, but it may be the merchant’s only choice if they get MATCHed. Merchants need an acquirer to accept card payments. And, without the ability to accept and process those payments, most eCommerce businesses face a serious drop in revenue…one that many merchants are unlikely to survive.

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How Do Merchants Get Off The List?

A merchant’s data will be removed from the MATCH list after the five-year period, assuming no additional MATCH entries were made. This is the only certain way of getting off the list.

Aside from that, there are only two circumstances where MATCH removal might potentially happen:

  • The acquirer contacts Mastercard on the merchant’s behalf and reports the original addition was made in error.
  • The merchant was added using MATCH list reason code 12 (PCI-DSS Noncompliance) but has since become compliant.

Even within those conditions, the road to MATCH list removal can be long and difficult, with little chance of success. If a merchant was MATCHed by mistake, going to the former acquiring bank with solid evidence of the error might convince them to retract the business from the list. There’s no rule that says they have to, however.

A merchant who makes the list due to PCI noncompliance still needs to work through the listing acquirer once compliance is achieved. Again, removal is at the bank’s discretion: they aren’t required to cooperate (although in these cases, Mastercard may be called upon to intervene).

In the end, the only sure way of the list is time. To weather the term, MATCH-listed merchants may have to optimize their business model to compensate for higher processing fees. It is also imperative that they minimize risk as much as possible, as another canceled account means the five-year clock starts all over.

The Benefits of Professional Help

Getting placed on the MATCH list is certainly a challenge and frustration, particularly for merchants who are new to the experience. Chargebacks911® can help merchants manage their new high-risk status, insulating against both international and domestic chargebacks.

The critical goal is to keep chargeback issuances low so as not to breach the networks’ chargeback thresholds. We have a full slate of tools that can help:

Intelligent Source Detection™

Unless merchants are able to determine the true reason for their chargebacks, they’ll end up implementing increasingly inefficient solutions.

Intelligent Source Detection™ is an innovative, one-of-a-kind solution that is can identify the real reason for a chargeback. Using this tool, merchants can pinpoint chargeback triggers and create prevention and management strategies that truly work.

Merchant Compliance Review

Research shows that up to 40% of chargebacks can be caused by merchants’ errors and oversights. Fortunately, these errors—and the resulting chargebacks—are entirely preventable.

Chargebacks911’s Merchant Compliance Review is a proprietary 106-point inspection of all merchant policies and procedures, which isolates and helps rectify errors that could trigger chargebacks.

Chargeback Alerts

Chargeback alerts are issued when a consumer disputes a transaction. Merchants have the opportunity to refund the transaction, thereby avoiding a chargeback and maintaining their chargeback ratio.

By combining our own proprietary network with those of third-party providers, Chargebacks911 is able to offer the broadest alerts coverage available.

Getting the Help You Need

As one of the primary causes of MATCH list placement, chargebacks can be an expensive problem for merchants to deal with. They also lead to revenue loss, higher fees, and potentially the loss of the business.

If chargebacks have caused your business to be MATCH-listed—or you feel MATCH list placement is inevitable—contact Chargebacks911 today for professional support and proven-effective solutions.


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