Card networks, such as Visa and Mastercard, operate databases known as Terminated Merchant Files (TMFs) that contain information about accounts that have been closed by credit card processors around the world for high chargebacks or violations of card brand rules.
All processors must check a TMF when accepting a new user, and are also required to add merchants to a TMF if the account is closed and meets TMF criteria.
Being placed on a TMF can have serious effects. While they’re only supposed to be informational tools during the account application process, many entities refuse to accept businesses or individuals listed on a TMF. For this reason, it’s important to be aware of TMF criteria and make sure you avoid becoming eligible.
The most common list—and the only one with global reach—is Mastercard’s MATCH, or the Mastercard Alert to Control High-Risk Merchants. In the following sections, we describe how MATCH qualification works and what happens to MATCH entries.
When a relationship ends between a business and a credit card processor, the processor must determine whether the business meets criteria to be placed on MATCH.
If any MATCH criteria are satisfied, the processor must add information about the business to MATCH within one business day of termination or within one business day of the account becoming eligible for MATCH after termination.
The majority of MATCH criteria, or “reason codes,” involve breaches of card network rules, including illegal activity and collusion. These 11 reason codes, and the exact Mastercard definition, are listed below:
CODE REASON DESCRIPTION
An occurrence that results, directly or indirectly, in the unauthorized access to or disclosure of Account data.
Account data is stolen at the Merchant and then used for fraudulent purchases at other Merchant locations.
The Merchant was engaged in laundering activity. Laundering means that a Merchant presented to its Acquirer Transaction records that were not valid Transactions for sales of goods or services between that Merchant and a bona fide Cardholder.
There was a criminal fraud conviction of a principal owner or partner of the Merchant.
The Merchant was determined to be a Questionable Merchant as per the criteria set forth in the Mastercard Questionable Merchant Audit Program.
The Merchant was unable or is likely to become unable to discharge its financial obligations.
With respect to a Merchant reported by a Mastercard Acquirer, the Merchant was in violation of one or more Standards that describe procedures to be employed by the Merchant in Transactions in which Cards are used, including, by way of example and not limitation, the Standards for honoring all Cards, displaying the Marks, charges to Cardholders, minimum/ maximum Transaction amount restrictions, and prohibited Transactions set forth in Chapter 5 of the Mastercard Rules manual.
The Merchant participated in fraudulent collusive activity.
The Merchant failed to comply with Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) requirements.
The Merchant was engaged in illegal Transactions.
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.
The Identity Theft reason code should be used when a fraudulent account is opened with stolen information, and the listing of this information on MATCH should not hamper the legitimate identity holder from opening a processing account. It instead serves as a warning to the credit card processor that the application may contain stolen identity information.
Two MATCH reason codes have specific numeric thresholds defined by Mastercard for when processors must add accounts to MATCH.
These reason codes, which involve chargeback and fraud activity on an account, are the most common reasons for being added to MATCH, and can affect businesses that are not engaged in illegal or rule-violating activity. These reason codes are as follows:
CODE REASON DESCRIPTION
With respect to a Merchant reported by a Mastercard Acquirer, the number of Mastercard chargebacks in any single month exceeded 1% of the number of Mastercard sales Transactions in that month, and those chargebacks totaled USD 5,000 or more.
The Merchant effected fraudulent Transactions of any type (counterfeit or otherwise) meeting or exceeding the following minimum reporting Standard: the Merchant’s fraud-to-sales dollar volume ratio was 8% or greater in a calendar month, and the Merchant effected 10 or more fraudulent Transactions totaling USD 5,000 or more in that calendar month.
These MATCH reason codes are separate from card brand chargeback and fraud monitoring programs operated by Visa and Mastercard. However, as defined, the excessive chargebacks criteria only applies to activity on Mastercard cards, even though MATCH is required by all major card networks. If dispute activity does not take place on a Mastercard card, it would not qualify toward MATCH counts. Other card networks may ask for businesses to be listed on MATCH if those businesses hit the “excessive” stages of their card brand monitoring programs or are fined as part of those programs.
A month is defined as a calendar month. For example, if a processor were evaluating MATCH eligibility from the month of January, they would look at the number of transactions in January and the number of chargebacks in January—not the number of chargebacks from transactions made in January.
Once a business meets the excessive chargebacks or fraud MATCH criteria in a calendar month, the merchant must be added to MATCH if the processing relationship is terminated, even if the processing relationship is not ended in that calendar month. For example, if a business only meets MATCH criteria in February, and the processing relationship is not ended until September, the processor is still required to add information to MATCH even though the qualifying activity took place in February. Additionally, even if a business does not meet MATCH criteria when the relationship is initially terminated, it can still qualify for MATCH if the criteria are met afterward—for example, if chargebacks are initiated after termination.
Take the following sample data from a calendar month:
Number of Mastercard transactions: 125
Number of Mastercard chargebacks: 6
Ratio of chargebacks to transactions: (6/125) = 4.8%
Volume of Mastercard chargebacks: $6250
In this case, the business would qualify for MATCH for excessive chargebacks if the processing relationship later terminates. It does not matter if chargebacks are later reversed or won by the merchant.
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