A random person has the chance to win a McDonald’s Gold Card and a lifetime of free fast food. Here’s the real story behind the mythic card in Bill Gates’ and Warren Buffett’s wallets.

Rob Lowe's Gold Card.

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Rob Lowe’s Gold Card.
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ABC

  • McDonald’s is giving away a “McGold Card” that grants free fast food for the rest of the holder’s life.
  • McDonald’s franchisees, founder Ray Kroc, and, in rare cases, the company headquarters, have all been known to give away these mythic Gold Cards.
  • Mitt Romney, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates are all among the ranks of people with cards that allow them to get a lifetime of free McDonald’s.

McDonald’s is allowing a random person to join a club that counts Mitt Romney, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates as its members: those who have access to free McDonald’s for life.

Every day you order from McDonald’s between August 10 and August 24, you are automatically entered in the sweepstakes to win free McDonald’s for life as part of the McGold Card Sweepstakes.

In the ad for the giveaway, a voiceover refers to the McGold Card as an “ancient secret.” And, the fabled card has gained a somewhat mythic quality over the years, as rumors and celebrity cardholders muddy the waters on what is real and what is mere imagination.

By far the most likely way that someone can get a McDonald’s Gold Card is from a local franchisee, who can offer free McDonald’s for life at restaurants in a certain area.

Rob Lowe, for example, got a Gold Card thanks to his connection with McDonald’s franchisee and McMuffin creator Herb Peterson. While Lowe is quite likely the most high-profile person Peterson bestowed the card upon, he is not the only one – just the first to brag about it on late-night TV.

For example, on his 90th birthday, Larry Crandell was awarded a Gold Card by Peterson, reports SantaBarbara.com. Crandell is a bit of a celebrity in Santa Barbara, California, having reportedly helped raise millions of dollars for the community as a volunteer and expert emcee.

Franchisees have granted the Gold Card to local celebrities and do-gooders.

Charles Ramsey, who ditched his half-eaten Big Mac to help rescue three kidnapped women in May 2013, was awarded free McDonald’s at all locations for a year and unlimited McDonald’s for the rest of his life at local Ohio restaurants.

In 2015, Ottawa Senators goalie Andrew Hammond, nicknamed the Hamburglar, received a card that gave him free McDonald’s for life from an Ottawa franchisee who, coincidentally, was also the father of Hammond’s former coach.

Billionaire Warren Buffett carries his hamburger and drink back to his table during lunch at the Allen & Co. conference at the Sun Valley Resort in Sun Valley, Idaho July 11, 2007.

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Billionaire Warren Buffett carries his hamburger and drink back to his table during lunch at the Allen & Co. conference at the Sun Valley Resort in Sun Valley, Idaho July 11, 2007.
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REUTERS/Rick Wilking

And, an Omaha franchisee gave billionaire Warren Buffett a card that promises him free McDonald’s for life.

“Mine is only good in Omaha, but I never leave Omaha so mine is just as good” as Bill Gates’ Gold Card, Buffett told CNBC in 2007.

There are only two major confirmed stories of people in possession of cards granting them free, unlimited McDonald’s anywhere in the country, or even the world.

While on the campaign trail in 2012, Mitt Romney told a story of how his father had a “little pink card” that awarded him free McDonald’s for life. McDonald’s confirmed that founder Ray Kroc had given Romney the card, but did not have any record of the reason for the gift. However, the chain noted that Kroc was known to informally gift these Lifetime “Be Our Guest” cards to various people throughout the years.

The other lucky recipient of a lifetime of free McDonald’s – not a little pink card, but a bona fide Gold Card, according to the company – is Bill Gates. According to Warren Buffett, Gates’ card works worldwide. Of course, it is unclear how often Gates stops by McDonald’s these days, since The Gates Foundation Asset Trust liquidated its position in the fast-food company in February 2015.