Like chameleons, American Express and Discover changed their skins to survive the financial crisis. They may actually be getting used to the camouflage.

The two nonbank institutions, the biggest monoline credit-card issuers, have spent the past year of tumult becoming more like banks, seeking the shelter of more traditional — and stable — funding models as the capital markets short-circuited. They converted to bank holding companies and assiduously built up branchless deposit-taking capabilities.

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