MasterCard (NYSE:MA) has begun preparations for an alliance with China's Alibaba Group, the company announced Thursday. Signing a Memorandum of Understanding with China's largest e-commerce company, the credit card giant says it's ready "to explore future collaboration in the area of e-Commerce," aiming "to benefit consumers and small businesses within and outside China."

From Alibaba's perspective, the objective here is to promote "a safe and efficient payment experience" for users of its AliExpress and Alipay platforms. For MasterCard, the proposed relationship offers a way to expand its presence in the Middle Kingdom, and with a firm that's already reaching out across borders through its three-year-old alliance with UPS.

Financial details on the proposed arrangement were not disclosed, and a deal has not yet been finalized. But that's the direction the companies appear to be moving in -- and investors like it. MasterCard shares closed 0.6% higher at $541.13 in the wake of Thursday's news.

Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends United Parcel Service. The Motley Fool owns shares of MasterCard. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.