What do Rob Lowe, Warren Buffet, and a random Cleveland local who saved a kidnapped woman have in common? They're all the proud holders of a McDonald's Gold Card - aka the tiny, metallic rectangle that scores a person Mickey D's grub. You probably want in - but scoring one is harder than you think.
You can't buy in.
You don't get a McDonald's Gold Card the same way you get one from Starbucks. Buying your weight in Big Macs doesn't automatically entitle you to one. Handing out Gold Cards is at the whim of franchise owners, and there are two ways to get their attention: nepotism and good deeds.
A bunch of celebrities have the card.
Rob Lowe infamously flashed his on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in 2015, claiming he got the card through a friend. But here's where the nepotism comes in: That friend's dad just happens to be the inventor of the Egg McMuffin and one of the original McDonald's franchisees. Other card holders include Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, philanthropist Larry Crandell, and local Cleveland hero Charles Ramsey. Ramsey earned his by rescuing a woman and child from their kidnapper. In every interview, he mentioned that he'd been eating McDonald's, so the chain paid it forward with a Gold Card.
It gets you free food ... for an undetermined amount of time.
Lowe's card was good for a year, from October 2015 through the October 2017, but Buffet's didn't have an expiration date.
They don't work at every location.
Dispersing Gold Cards is usually a job for franchisees, meaning the metal only works at a certain location. Lowe's and Crandell's were for six locations in California, while Buffet's only worked in Omaha, NE.
The Gold Card isn't the only way to score free McDonald's.
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