Underwriting is performed on every merchant account application. The processor will pull and review your personal credit, and review your business model (and also check the TMF list). The reason for this is that there is a risk involved on every merchant account: every transaction that the bank allows a merchant to process is essentially a 6 month loan to the merchant until the chargeback liability expires.
Since a customer has 6 months to issue a “chargeback” on any credit card transaction, every transaction the bank allows a merchant to process is a “signature loan” or “provisional credit” to the merchant for 6 months. A prospective merchant should realize that a processor offering merchant accounts is doing so as an investment vehicle, and on all investments there are risks. The ultimate risk here is that a merchant will process, for example $20,000/month, for 3 months, and then go out of business, unable to fulfill their services/products promised to their customers. Since customers have 6 months to issue a chargeback for services/products not received, a right granted to them by their credit card issuing bank, the bank can expect to see many of these transactions to come back as chargebacks. While it is true, that most processors require a “personal guaranty” and will attempt to pursue you personally to collect any losses, it is the processor that is ultimately responsible to Visa/MC/AmEx/Discover for repaying these transactions if the merchant is unable to.
True, this is a “worst case” scenario, however, losses are incurred on a more regular schedule, on merchants that experience even less significant chargeback problems. So, this is why underwriting is involved on a merchant account application, to ensure that the processor is not assuming more risk than is warranted.