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

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

So… you’re stuck on the list huh? Let’s dive into what it really means for a merchant to get put on the 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?


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.

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.

Banks and other account providers find the TMF or Match File list to be incredibly useful. It protects them from approving a merchant who could cause a loss. However, the list can make life quite difficult for a merchant who finds himself listed in the file. Often, merchants apply for a new merchant account, get turned down, and only then find out they have been added to the list.

Unfortunately, a business cannot simply substitute a new signer to get approved elsewhere because the name of the business, it’s principal signers, and both their addresses are recorded in the MATCH file. 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. For this reason, every business owner should work to understand how the list is operated and what a merchant can do if they find themselves on it.

When a merchant whose name appears on the MATCH file merchant list applies for a merchant account through a new financial institution, their application will be flagged. Likely, the new processing bank will turn down the application and deem it as 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 or Match List?

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). Fortunately, there are many simple things you can do to prevent future fraud.

How Accurate is the Terminated Merchant File?

Though the TMF or Match List 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 or Match 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 or Match listing is unfair, there are lawyers who specialize in this niche. Bank Card Law is one resource to help with this matter. They have successfully removed match listed merchants since 1994. 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 or Match List, however each case is unique. Please inquire with us about the processing options for your business.

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