Information on Merchant Accounts,
Ecommerce and Credit Card Processing

March 15th, 2006 by Jamie Estep

TMF’d – What to do if you are are placed on the terminated merchant ‘match’ file…

Filed in: Ecommerce, Guides, Merchant Accounts, My Favorite Posts | 19 comments

I wish I could say that every business that is placed on a terminated merchants file deserves it. Unfortunately I would be absolutely lying to say so.

TMF Match FileThe Terminated Merchants File (TMF) or match file is basically a list of merchants that have had their merchant accounts closed down by their processing bank on negative terms. This list, which resembles McCarthy’s black list during the cold war, is a stop-all flag that credit card processing companies in America abide by. If you are placed on the match file, you, any partner of your business, your business itself, and possibly anyone at your address can not sign up for a merchant account with a US based processing bank. Processing companies take the match file very seriously.

How to get on the list:
When a merchant ends their contract with a merchant provider in a negative way, their name can be placed on this list. Unfortunately, not all business placed on the list even know they are on it until they try to get setup processing credit cards with another company. The rules to place a merchant on the list are fairly limited, but seem often abused.

The easiest way to get on the list is to close your contract with a merchant provider and not pay your final bill. Failing to fulfill your contract is almost a guarantee that you will get put on the match file. Your final bill includes any processing costs that you owe, but also includes any monthly, yearly, or termination fees that were specified on your merchant contract. You are also liable for 6 months past the settlement date of the final transaction that was processed on your merchant account. The settlement date is defined as the date that the service or merchandise was fully delivered to and accepted by the customer. Basically, if you sold someone a 1 year magazine subscription, you are liable 6 months after they get their last issue.

Merchants are normally placed on the TMF file for failing to pay their final bill, but can also be placed on it for reasons that can be out of their control. High chargeback ratios, processing fraudulent transactions and breaking a merchant account contract are other common reasons for being placed on the TMF. Running your own credit card through your own merchant account can also get your account closed and TMF’d.

What to do to get off the file:
The only company in the world that can get you off the TMF, is the company that put you on it. It does not matter who you talk to, what they promise, who they are, or anything else, it always comes down to the company that put you on it. Business normally learn that they are on the TMF when they try to open a merchant account with another company.

The company that puts a merchant on the TMF is the processor that is taking on the risk of allowing the business to process with them. These are often the back end companies that you may have never had any personal contact with. FDMS, Nova, Global, and others are back-end processors. Merchant Service Providers and resellers are not normally the companies that can put a merchant on the TMF, unless they are taking on the risk of your credit card processing, so calling them may have no effect, but regardless, the company you signed up your merchant account with is who you should contact first.

After you find that you are placed on the TMF, assuming that you don’t know why you’re on the list, you should first call your former merchant account provider. You are going to be inevitable led on a wild goose chase of phone tag with different departments in the company. Hopefully you can reach someone who can give you answers within a person or two. You may finally be referred to the processing bank itself, but in either case, after some diligent calling you should be able to track down someone who can inform you of your situation. The most important thing to remember right now is to remain calm and courteous to every person you talk to, no matter how upset or angry you may be. Yelling and acting aggressively toward people at this state is only going to create problems. It is understandable that you are frustrated with the situation, but most of the people you talk to do not have the ability to directly change things. Once you reach someone that can explain your situation to you, possibly in the risk department, they should be able to tell you why you are on the match file and what you need to do to get off the file. At this point make sure you get a more direct phone number for someone that you can correspond with about the situation.

Depending on why you are on the TMF, it can be easy to impossible to get off the TMF. If you are on it for committing fraud yourself through your own merchant account, don’t count on ever getting off. Processors do not like fraud in any way, and if you as a business owner were the cause of it, they will not ever want to provide services to you again.

If a business was placed on the match file for a high chargeback ratio, time is normally the only thing that will get the business off. The processor needs to know that they aren’t going to get stuck with any unanswered bills from the merchant’s former customer’s Chargebacks.

If you didn’t pay your final bill, it may just be a matter of making good on your debt with your former processor. I have seen this as low as a few dollars, and the merchant was removed about a week after they made payment.

Unfortunately the majority of the time it is not that simple to get off the match file. It normally takes several weeks to get off the match file. Sometimes it takes negotiations to get charges cleared up, or fees removed. At this point every case is unique. If after a few weeks you are not making any headway, you may need to consult a lawyer. Processors normally use a system called arbitration to avoid taking individual cases to court. It is cheaper than going to a court, and the results are often better for both parties.

It is a good idea to have a clear understand the rules of Visa and MasterCard. Knowing about the match file, and the general regulations of Visa and MasterCard can help a lot when trying to get off of it.

If you need legal assistance in getting of the Match file, you will unquestionably need a lawyer that has experience in bankcard law. Here are a few resources to help you if you find yourself in that situation. I do not personally have experience with these companies but several have been recommended to me and these seem reputable. Use your own judgement before choosing an attorney.

How to stay off the match file:
Signing up with the wrong processor greatly increases a businesses chance to ever get put on a match file, especially for incidental reasons. I personally recommend signing up for a merchant account with FDMS or Nova as the back end processor, as businesses with these companies are much less likely to experience problems with the match file. In any case, make sure the provisions of the merchant account application, particularly the contract period and any associated termination fees are well understood before signing.

Related Posts:
Why are some companies offering free credit card terminals with their merchant accounts?
What Does All This Mean? – Merchant Account Fees
Credit Card Processing No No’s
Avoiding a Bad Merchant Service Provider

19 Responses to “TMF’d – What to do if you are are placed on the terminated merchant ‘match’ file…”

  1. Aric February 23, 2007 at 4:23 pm

    Someone told me that I should run different types of transactions through different MID numbers. Example – One number for fee based services and another for product purchase. Is this true? Thanks, Aric

  2. Alen September 18, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    I was placed on TMF Match by Nova for High Retreval rate(I am still fighting to correct it).

    In the mean time, how/where can i find someone that excepts businesses with TMF Match.


  3. […] the slamming are criminals and should not be trusted on any level. Businesses have gone bankrupt, been put on the TMF, have been locked into horrible contracts and paid thousands of dollars because of thieves that do […]

  4. Bruce Woods May 29, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    Is there a website I can look up to see if our company is on the tmf list?

  5. jestep May 30, 2008 at 8:10 am

    Unfortunately the list isn’t publicly available. I imagine that this could change since both Visa and MC are public companies, but as of now, the only way to find out would be to apply for a merchant account, or to ask your previous processor.

  6. Brandon Drury February 6, 2009 at 2:46 am

    Comparing the TMF to McCarthyism is a start, but I think it’s more along the lines of the Salem Witch Trials.

    I had 2 chargebacks on the first day of opening a membership site from people who had not even requested a refund. I was dropped immediately and placed on the TMF.

    Selling products online has been nearly impossible.

  7. Megan February 17, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    What do you do if the card you processed was returned due to fraudulent activity? How do you go about convicting the card holder of fraud?

  8. Janet Wood June 17, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    I’m on the TMF, but I wasn’t terminated. I didn’t even know about it until I applied to a new processor. Is this a method to keep you from moving to another processor? I have no clue why I am listed and I can’t get anyone with First Data to even acknowledge that they made the report. First Data says that they don’t recognise my account number and they won’t lift a finger until I provide the “right number”. Companies that I have applied to will only tell me that First Data put me on the match list. I don’t think that I did anything to warrant being put on the match list.

    My problem with First Data probably goes back to the signing agent. This guy lied to me and didn’t give me the addendum page to the contract. I tried to change processors and they said, no, you can’t do that, it’s in the contract…The part I didn’t get…These guys are just door to door salesmen trying to make a commission. I’ve seen several young men who have sold none/few processing contracts. They’ve been to enough places to know what the deal breakers are, so they gloss over those details. I would say that they lie about the processing rates, but they are so complicated now that it’s extremely difficult for these newbies to give an accurate computation. They only pretend to be working on the figures when they say, “We can save you 15%!”

    When I get phone calls requesting an appointment to review our credit card processing, I say NO! Then they say that they have people in the area and it will only take 15 minutes of your time (boy, that’s a lie), I say NO! If they persist, I hang-up. Signing-up for credit card processing from the slam-bam thank you mam, traveling door to door salesmen is the worst way to sign-up!!

    I got my current processing at the local merchant’s credit bureau. I know them; they know me. It’s been great!

  9. peter September 23, 2009 at 9:23 am

    do u know of any other banks that will work with me im on the tmf list and currently being investigated, but in the meantime i need to still run my business if you can help please email me thanks

  10. Linda November 16, 2009 at 11:04 am

    i would be more than happy to help anyone who is on a tmf file

    • Timothy April 26, 2011 at 11:41 am

      Help Im on the TMF filess but need a m lunation merchant account ! can you please help me ! firstbank first data rosalie put me on t tmf blacklist !

  11. Larry Bradfield January 11, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    There are a lot of reasons to be placed on the TMF match and I would say that the best place to start is the Company that placed you there. Online Transactions and Chargebacks can be the most common ways to get on the list.

  12. frank krogh January 22, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    We started processing w/1st data on 11/20/09, by 12/23, they stopped paying us, and attempted to debit about $8000 from our account. We had NO chargebacks, but were put on the black list. The personal guarantor is our VP, I did run my card through the business for a side business I have, to purchase advertising from us, I thought this was OK, since it wasn’t the personal guarantor’s card. They want invoices for these, but I wonder if I should send them. Do I have any hope of getting off the list? Thanks!

  13. James January 24, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    Anyone out there actually gotten taken off the TMF list successfully?

  14. Shell January 27, 2010 at 2:10 am

    Anyone ever delt with bank card pros or blue pay .. opened my business in oct .. by jan they had me on the tmf.. said they never collected fees on 3k of charges .. i have proof they did .. they also sold me the pos system which i know now stands for something other then Point of sale.. Anyone know who to process with while on this list during the litigation .. i just opened i dont need to close already .

  15. Larry March 17, 2010 at 5:30 am

    I am starting new business was placed on TMF do to a sales rep. that changed the business type on the application because his company didn’t accept my type of business. After a few months with 0 chargeback first data closed all my accounts. Wanted to know with new business should I put in my brothers name or can I get a merchant account. Will be card present business.

  16. Ron Haven April 17, 2010 at 8:26 am

    Our firm was TMF’d by First Data when we went with another company. Our last day with First Data was Feb24, with no problems regarding any chargebacks. We went with another company who gave us better transaction fees, plus better service. The beginning of April our current processor informed us we were placed on the TMF list, due to chargebacks, a week after we left First Data. In our contract we have a 100% money back guarantee clause, with no questions asked. Our staff that are considered closer’s, when informing the prospect about the money back guarantee were bascially stating that you don’t have to worry about getting your money back because you can always just call you credit card company or bank and instruct them that due to their personal circumstances, they want their charge taken off and credited back. Basically we were instructing our clients to get a chargeback rather than just calling our company and we would have refunded their service fee by check or we would credit their credit card. Any advise from someone out there on how we could state our case to whomever? Our current credit card processor has inactivated our account, and I as an account representative basically have lost a very big account because they are not allowed to process cards for this company now. I just find this practice unethical or elligal, due to no due process, or guilty before being proven innocent. Any additional advice out there. Thx, in advance.

  17. Ash March 15, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    I would stay the ***k away from Wells Fargo – iPayment. We had roughly two hundred transactions in the first month – about $4,000 in business. Our website provides instant downloads of purchased products – no possibility for non-delivery of product – and customers can log back in to redownload anything they have purchased once within a year of making the purchase. We had a couple of non-English speaking people who did not follow directions elect to file chargebacks. I talked to both them and to Wells Fargo (iPayment).

    The customers had not made any attempt to contact our company before filing the chargebacks. The chargebacks totaled less than $150.00.

    iPayment terminated us, held a thousand dollars in cleared transactions and then attempted to debit another $1,000 from our deposit account at Chase, against the possibility that someone may claim they did not receive their product at some point in the future.

    I explained the fact that our products are instantly available and delivered to customers and invited the person in “Loss Prevention” to take a look at the account. He did, and then he said, and this is an exact quote, “Well, I need UPS tracking numbers for your sales.”

    After spending nearly an hour on the phone with various people I just plain gave up.

    After PayPal (who we worked with for years and moved because of the promise of fewer problems and better customer service with lower fees) I didn’t ever expect to have to deal with people this thick headed.

    As a matter of fact, the people at iPayment (Wells Fargo) in Loss Prevention make the morons at PayPal look like freaking rocket scientists!

    If you use iPayment or are thinking about it, well, you’ve been forewarned. I would try someone else.

  18. Keith April 13, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    I have had the same issues as all of you above. It seems the “little guy” being us have no say or authority to dispute these complaints and for the most part are blown off. Most of us are just trying to make a living and pursue our entrepreneurial interests, when we are basically shut down by the “Corporate Guy”, who doesnt explain the policies, fees, consequences, how to resolve, as long as they get your john hancock and get you locked in and access to your accounts. I would ask and recommend filing complaints consistently with the BBB, FCC, IRS, and SEC, and any other alphabet agency you can think of. I make it my goal each day while I continue to operate my business to file a complaint, send an email, write a letter, or make a call to one of these agencies explaining the issue. Eventually they will respond. It takes persistence and diligence on this, but I believe real soon we will see some changes in the way this processing is done and even some companies being hit with criminal charges and unethical practices. Now either that or you can just do some research and find out who is in charge of the risk management, and making the changes to take you off the list and hire the mob to go be a little influential. Just be patient and do your due diligence and hang in there