When a merchant’s account is placed on TMF or also commonly referred to as the MATCH list), the effects on business can be devastating. Once a merchant is listed on TMF, its account is considered high risk, even if the business/product type was never classified as high risk in the past. While the merchant remains on the TMF/MATCH list, which usually lasts for 5–7 years, opening any new merchant accounts will likely be a challenge. If the merchant finds a bank or processor that is willing to approve its high risk merchant account during this time, the bank will likely charge the merchant steep rates and, in most cases, issue a reserve.
You may be wondering, “What is the TMF/MATCH list?” and “How do merchants get placed on the list?” TMF is short for “Terminated Merchant File” and MATCH stands for “Member Alert to Control High Risk.” MasterCard created and manages the list as a tool to “identify a potentially high risk merchant before entering into a merchant agreement.” Visa and American Express also consult this list when making decisions on approving accounts. Basically, the list is a way for the card providers and issuing banks to do a background check on a merchant’s processing in the past — which prevents merchants that were previously flagged for risky or sometimes illegal activities from acquiring new accounts.