In order to do business, most merchants need the ability to process credit cards these days. That’s because more and more people are using credit or debit cards to make purchases than cash, particularly with how compelling many rewards programs are surrounding bonus points and discounts for using your card. At the same time, with COVID-19 raging, many businesses have chosen to only accept credit or debit cards, so there’s less paper money in circulation than there’d normally be. All of these factors, combined with an increase in the importance of eCommerce, serve to illustrate just how important payment processing solutions are for merchant accounts.

With all of that said, have you ever stopped to think about how some businesses may get their merchant account flagged and credit card processor abilities revoked? While it’s not something that the average consumer thinks about, in actuality, something called the TMF list exists as a way to protect financial institutions from offering credit and processing capabilities to high-risk merchants. This, in turn, can help consumers by ensuring that they’re not caught up in a business account with a reputation for unfair business practices or fraudulent charges. Read on to learn more about what the TMF or MATCH list is and what it means for businesses.

What is the TMF or MATCH list?

The TMF list, also known as the MATCH list for payment processors Mastercard and American Express, is essentially a blacklist of merchant files that are high-risk. This list is shared between a variety of merchant account providers in order to protect other merchants from opening a new merchant account with a business owner whose business has had its privileges revoked. TMF stands for terminated merchant file, whereas the MATCH list stands for Member Alert to Control High-Risk Merchants. In either scenario, these lists are widely shared and easily accessible by acquiring banks in order to avoid continuing to give ner merchant accounts to a business owner who should be on the list but is trying to avoid the TMF list by requesting a new merchant account under a different business name. If your company ends up on the TMF or MATCH list, it’s usually very detrimental to business.

What factors get a business on a TMF list?

There are a variety of common reasons that a business may be put on a TMF list. The most common reason has to do with a business account with excessive chargebacks. High chargebacks can be a warning sign for a processing bank for a variety of reasons. In some situations, high chargebacks mean that consumers are consistently initiating a chargeback as they have no other recourse and a company hasn’t delivered a refund as promised. In other scenarios, however, a high number of chargebacks could be a sign of illegal activity and fraudulent charges. If your business is approaching a high chargeback ratio, it may be worth reaching out to your credit card company ahead of time to explain what is happening, lest you be accused of excessive fraud for reaching your chargeback thresholds.

Can a business get off of the TMF list?

In most cases, it’s very difficult to get off of the TMF list once your business has been put onto it. Generally speaking, high-risk accounts are on a TMF or MATCH list for at least five years. That being said, there are some scenarios where you may be able to get off of the list, such as if you were put on the list by mistake or because you weren’t up to date on your PCI compliance. Even so, each individual case has its own ins and outs, so it’s a good idea to consult with a law firm specializing in payment processing and commercial debt collection if you want to learn more about your situation from a team of experts.