As MasterCard Inc. (MA) pushes to expand overseas, its second-place status behind Visa Inc. (V) may turn out to be a benefit.

The world's second-largest payments network has aggressively pursued international growth in recent years — partly because it can afford to spend less time defending its established business than Visa does, says Sanjay Sakhrani, an analyst with Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, Inc.

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