Not long ago, fast-food restaurants were considered laggards because they did not take credit or debit cards, well after most high-volume retailers — like supermarkets and drug stores — had begun accepting them.

Today, some fast-food chains have leaped to the forefront of experimentation with payment cards and mobile acceptance devices. Several that used to be cash-only are testing futuristic systems in which patrons wave key-chain tags and other gadgets in front of terminals that can read them.

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