Oak Brook, Illinois--After years of testing, McDonald's Corp. will make it possible next year for customers nationwide to pay for their burgers and fries with plastic. Other big chains are conducting their own experiments with credit and debit cards and are expected to follow suit once McDonald's gets into the game.

If card use catches on, lines at McDonald's restaurants will get shorter, because powerful processors and faster networks are making plastic faster than cash. If all goes according to plan, with the latest systems, a McDonald's customer will be able to place an order at a counter or drive-thru, swipe their credit card and get an approval in under five seconds--no signature required--in the same way customers pay for gas at the pump. Cash, by contrast, can take eight to 10 seconds. -Dow Jones Business News