Few things can stop your business in its tracks, like being put on the MATCH list. If you don’t have a merchant account, you can’t accept payments. And if you can’t accept payments, you can’t sell your goods and make a profit. Merchants must understand what the MATCH list is and how to conduct business so they can avoid being placed on it. But, if you’re already there, you’re going to need a MATCH list friendly merchant account provider.
The best way to avoid being put on the MATCH list is to understand what type of actions will land you on it. Some things are under your control and some are not.
Obviously the bank won’t tolerate it if you engage in illegal or fraudulent activity. But sometimes you get put on the match list for reasons that are neither illegal nor fraudulent.
That is the case with excessive chargebacks. Businesses that continually exceed the chargeback thresholds will find themselves reported to the MATCH list. Chargebacks are not illegal, nor are they your fault. But excessive chargebacks pose greater financial risk for the processor.
And that’s what the list is for, to inform processors of merchants who pose a significant amount of risk. Merchants can avoid this list by understanding what it’s for, and what practices to follow to stay off of it. Merchants that find themselves already on it need to know what their options are. The most important thing is maintaining the ability to accept payments, even with a MATCH listing.
What is the MATCH list and what is its purpose?
Before, when a merchant had its merchant account privileges terminated, the bank added them to the Terminated Merchant File, or TMF. The MATCH list is an updated version of the TMF created and maintained by MasterCard Worldwide.
MATCH is the acronym for Member Alert To Control High-risk. MasterCard created this list to provide acquiring banks with one central location to vet merchants before they provide them a merchant account. It’s a sort of “blacklist”, so acquiring banks can easily identify high-risk or potentially fraudulent merchants. Even though MasterCard maintains the list, it is used by all financial institutions and major card brands, including Visa, American Express, and Discover.
The MATCH list is more comprehensive than the TMF was. The TMF only listed merchants who had previously had their merchant account shut down. But it didn’t give any information as to why. The MATCH, however, provides a more detailed look at the merchant’s processing history as well as a reason code for placement. This reason code explains why the merchant was terminated. This helps the processor to make an educated decision about whether to board the merchant and take on the risk.
Being placed on the MATCH list can make it very difficult for a business to open a merchant account with a new acquirer. When a merchant applies for a merchant account, the acquirer will check the MATCH list to see if they list the business. Most of the time they will decline the account immediately if the business is on the list.
Merchants are not notified formally that they’ve been placed on the match list by their processor. But having your merchant account shut down for any one of the reasons should be notice enough. And since acquirers share and consult this list with every application, your new potential processor is going to know about it.
Why do merchants get put on the match list?
MasterCard has created clear guidelines for what activities constitute being placed on the MATCH list. But they leave the actual placement of merchants up to the discretion of the processor and acquiring banks. Payment processors have sole discretion to add or remove a business from the MATCH list.
If a processor believes a merchant has committed a violation, they will MATCH-list them for other processors to see. MasterCard does not have any protocol in place for verifying whether the reason is accurate or warranted, though.
The match list entry will include the business name, the name of the principal, and all business partners involved. This makes it difficult for the business to get a new merchant account. But also make it hard for any owner or partner to get a merchant account, even in a new business.
There are only 12 reasons for a business to be MATCH listed. Most involve engaging in illegal activities such as money laundering, identity theft, and illegal transactions. Some involve lack of security standards, data breach, and PCI-DSS non-compliance. One of the most common reason codes is for excessive chargebacks.
Sometimes a merchant will commit a violation without knowingly or purposefully doing it. Sometimes a not so ethical salesman mis-codes a business type to get them approved. A good example of this is with companies that sell CBD oil.
They know a bank will not approve a business that sells CBD for a merchant account to accept credit cards. So instead they’ll code the business as an essential oil or a health supplement company on the application. This ends up getting the merchant’s account shut down, and the business placed on the MATCH list.
Through no fault of their own, they’ve committed a crime. This kind of thing happens more than you’d like to think. It would be very hard to prove that the business didn’t know it was being done.
Having your merchant account terminated won’t necessarily automatically land you on the list. They only require the acquirer to place a business on the MATCH list if one of the specific reason codes for the list applies. If the acquirer closes a merchant account for any other reason, they are not required to place the business on the list.
Merchants can find the complete list on the MasterCard website.
How do merchants get off the MATCH LIST?
It can be time-consuming and difficult to get removed from the MATCH list. Only the acquirer that placed a business on the list can remove them. And generally, the only reason they would ever remove a business if they were placed on by mistake. The merchant would have to contact the acquirer and prove to they put them on the list by mistake. Only then would they get removed.
The only other time a merchant can get off the match list is if it was for PCI non-compliance. If a merchant gets placed on the list for PCI non-compliance, they can be removed as soon as they become compliant.
However, this isn’t automatic. The merchant will still need to contact the acquirer that listed them for removal. They’ll require a letter of PCI Compliance, the acquirers testament that the business is now PCI compliant, among various other identifying information. Verbiage from MasterCard’s Security Rules and Procedures - Merchants Edition Section 11.4 state:
Any request relating to a Merchant listed for reason code 12 must contain:
– The Acquirer’s attestation that the Merchant is in compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, and
– A letter or certificate of validation from a Mastercard certified forensic examiner, certifying that the Merchant has become compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard.
Merchants working to get off the MATCH list for PCI non-compliance should visit the website and be sure to submit all information exactly as required.
Terminated merchants will remain on the MATCH list for 5 years. Once the five years pass, merchants will automatically come off the list. However, if you’re put on the list more than once, the 5 years begin with the most recent entry.
Get a new merchant account even if you’ve been black, er, MATCH listed.
Being on the MATCH list isn’t a death sentence for accepting credit card payments.
Just because they’ve placed you on the MATCH list doesn’t mean you have to wait 5 years to accept credit card payments.
Many will have you believe that high-risk processors are extremely expensive and offer terrible terms. They’ll make you feel you have to take what you get. That’s not necessarily the case.
There are processors who specialize in high-risk businesses and understand the challenges. Being on the MATCH list informs them of the amount of risk they will take on when approving you for a merchant account. High-risk merchant account providers usually tolerate more risk than standard banks.
If you’ve had your merchant account terminated and have been placed on the MATCH list, don’t try to hide it. Be sure to tell the high-risk processor right up front. Knowing what they’re dealing with for underwriting is part of the battle of finding the right solution.
Fortunately, we’re experts in the high-risk merchant account sector. We’ve formed long-standing relationships with acquiring banks that specialize in high-risk merchant accounts. They understand the challenges and are willing to work with you to overcome them.
If you maintain quality business practices and avoid the illegal or fraudulent activities, we’ll help with the rest.
Chargebacks are one of the most common reasons processors place businesses on the MATCH list. It’s unfortunate because there are steps merchants can take to reduce their chargeback incidence.
We can help you better manage your chargebacks so you don’t continually breach your chargeback thresholds. We believe it is always good practice to try to mitigate and manage costly chargebacks. But it’s especially important for high-risk businesses. Chargeback management software helps you be more proactive in keeping your chargeback ratio under control.
We’ll also help you accept payments with software and hardware that meets the highest data security standards. All our terminals and payment gateways are fully PCI-DSS compliant. That means that many of your PCI Compliance requirements are already taken care of just by using it. Each year we will help to remind you to complete your annual PCI Self-Assessment Questionnaire on time. Not completing this one thing is usually the step where merchants fall out of compliance.
As you can see, it is best to avoid being put on the match list in the first place. But if you are on the list, we can help. Call us and let one of our ETA Certified Payments Professionals find you a solution today. “Experience the B.I.G. Difference!”