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ATLANTA — For the holidays, McDonald's is giving away free meals for life. Well, sort of.
Beginning Dec. 5, every order completed in the McDonald's app for at least $1 will enter customers into a contest to win a McGold Card. Three winners will get a special card that earns them free McDonald's for life. Plus, each winner will get three extra cards to give away for a total of 12 cards being won.
The McGold Card has been around for years, with some heavy hitters reportedly holding them, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and actor Rob Lowe. In 2018, McDonald's issued a few gold cards during a contest, but the winner was eligible to get "only" two free meals a week for 50 years. That rule applies to this year's promotion too, which ends on Dec. 25.
"Our fans have been fascinated by the lore of the McGold Card and if it really exists. And now, we'll make this McDonald's legend a reality for our fans by giving them the ultimate holiday gift — a chance to win a card and then share access to it with three of their family or friends," said Tariq Hassan, McDonald's USA chief marketing officer in a release.
McDonald's is enticing people to enter with three weeks of food deals and merchandise, including Chicken McNugget stockings and a AM Wrapper Hoodie in Egg McMuffin or cheeseburger prints.
The deals, which vary by day, include buy-one-get-one-free Big Mac sandwiches, free six-piece nuggets with a $1 purchase and 50-cent double cheeseburger. it's the third year that McDonald's has rolled out a December promotion, with last year's promoted by Mariah Carey.
The annual promotion uses existing ingredients or menu items — creating buzz without adding much extra work for employees. It also entices people to come in and likely spend more than the $1 required to get the free food.
McDonald's recently reported strong earnings, partially buoyed by deals like these. In the third quarter, sales at McDonald's U.S. stores open at least 13 months grew 6.1%.
The chain is "positioned as the leading brand in terms of value for money and affordability," said its CFO Ian Borden in an analyst call last month. He noted that some cash-strapped customers are shifting from buying meals to purchasing value items.