One of the most challenging things an entrepreneur can run into is being put on the Visa / Mastercard “TMF” or “MATCH” List. This makes it VERY difficult to get a merchant account anywhere in the United States. Second to that is being put on the GNF List. It’s not nearly as severe – but can feel completely crippling if you don’t understand it.
Getting someone off either the GNF or TMF list can be a wild goose chase – but a letter (and further pursuit) from an attorney can sometimes work. Easy Pay Direct can refer you to an industry attorney who specializes in this if you’re in need.
So here are the basic details that are important to understand in regards to the TMF and GNF list.
The TMF or “MATCH” list
Terminated Merchant File / Member Alert To Control High-Risk Merchants
A Visa / MC list that is intended for businesses/business owners who have actually committed fraud. As soon as you’re on this list, an alert is sent to all credit card processors in the US. This is intended alert processors to fraud–it most commonly results in an immediate shut down of any existing merchant accounts in the US.
GNF Stand for “Group Negative File”.
This is First Data’s internal list of businesses that they have had any kind of issue with and no longer want to do business with. This is not an indication of fraud. You could be put on this list for any number of reasons–most commonly from having a First Data account closed.
Being put on the GNF does not mean that other First Data accounts will necessarily be closed immediately – nor does it mean that other merchant accounts will be closed – it simply means that First Data has decided they don’t like your business for some reason – that they may or may not disclose freely. Again, it’s an internal list.
::::If you want to understand the nitty gritty::::
The relationships between parties in the payment industry can be confusing. Here are some relevant details:
First Data fills several roles in our industry…
First Data can be a front end processor (You’ll see First Data on the statements)
First Data can be a back end processor (You will see a different brand on the statements)
First Data “rents” it’s secure channel (similar to phone lines, cell towers, etc)
First Data sells terminals (not relevant here)
It’s when First Data is either the front or back end processor that the GNF is relevant.
Wells Fargo is First Data’s “Acquiring Bank” (also referred to as a “Member Bank” or “Sponsor Bank”).
The Acquiring Bank reports directly to Visa / Mastercard and is primarily concerned with following their rules and regulations and policing them for their processors.
When First Data is the back end processor, 99% of the time, Wells Fargo holds the risk on the merchant account and makes the final decision as to whether a merchant account is approved or declined – but they are using First Data’s GNF list to guide them. They do not control the GNF themselves.
Wells Fargo on it’s own, operates purely as a banking institution – and most of their operation has nothing to do with First Data.