On its quarterly earnings conference call Thursday, MasterCard (MA) CEO Ajay Banga said the company has “good conversations going on” with PayPal (PYPL) about a potential digital payments partnership. PayPal has had a contentious relationship with credit card companies as the online payment processor draws funds directly from customers’ bank accounts, cutting out middlemen like Visa (V) and MasterCard.
But analysts questioned whether such a deal would infringe upon the Visa and PayPal alliance, through which customers will have the option to pay with either method, with no difference in fees. While Visa had said that its cards would be promoted exclusively alongside PayPal for 12 months, MasterCard rejected the idea that there was any barrier to a similar agreement of its own.
“I’m not clear that I understand enough about what exclusivity Visa signed with PayPal, because we’re not encountering any difficulty while talking to PayPal in that space,” Banga said on the call. “I’m pretty clear that we’ve got enough good conversations going on, not just now but for a little while.”
“This is not about forcing them to do anything,” he added. “This is about our perspective of how the marketplace should develop, transparently and openly to merchants, to consumers, to banks, to PayPal and to all of us.”
MasterCard and PayPal are “all actively seeking to expand” their “overall relationship,” Banga further explained, saying it was “a constructive dialogue.”
PayPal confirms that it has room to partner with both MasterCard and Visa if it wants to, as Visa only has an exclusive on certain marketing arrangements, not on the credit card payment option (and even that is temporary). A PayPal spokesperson tells Fortune:
Our overall deal with Visa is not exclusive, but within the deal there is a limited (12 month) exclusivity with Visa issuers for marketing card promotions within the PayPal Wallet….Both partnership and choice will play an important role in [our] evolution, and that will mean partnering with many in the ecosystem. Therefore, we continue ongoing discussions with all networks and anyone that shares our vision to democratize payments, but cannot share anything from those discussions at this time.