This article is part of our Cocktail Chatter series, where we dive into the wild, weird, and wondrous corners of history to share over a cocktail and impress your friends.

As the world’s largest fast-food chain, McDonald’s has built its iconic reputation upon Happy Meals and affordable prices. But in recent years, the chain has faced backlash from diners who claim that Big Macs and combo meals are no longer as cheap as they once were. If you agree, just wait until you hear about who owns the majority of McDonald’s Gold Cards, which grant free McDonald’s to the recipient for a year or even a lifetime — spoiler alert, it’s the people who really, really don’t need one.

McGold Cards are clearly rare to come by. They appear to be given out to people who have strong connections to the chain or who McDonald’s deems heroes — as was the case with Charles Ramsey. In 2013, the Cleveland local helped rescue three victims from kidnapper Ariel Castro, who had taken the girls a decade earlier and held them captive in his basement. After stating in interviews that he was halfway through eating his McDonald’s when the rescue happened, the fast-food chain granted Ramsey free burgers for life at 14 Cleveland locations.

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But for the most part, we hear about these coveted cards from the über wealthy. Warren Buffett, the famed investor who claims to eat McDonald’s for breakfast every day, has been in possession of a McGold Card since at least 2007, which grants him free McDonald’s for life in Omaha, Neb., his hometown. In an interview that year with CNBC, the billionaire — whose net worth currently exceeds $136 billion — noted the card’s place in his wallet and revealed that his close personal friend (and fellow billionaire) Bill Gates is also in possession of a Gold Card. While Buffett’s card is only valid in the Omaha region, he explained in the interview that the Microsoft founder’s McGold Card can allegedly be used at any McDonald’s location on the planet.

The McDonald's Gold Card, made out to Rob Lowe.
Credit: ABC

And in a 2015 interview with Jimmy Kimmel, actor Rob Lowe divulged that he has a McGold Card stashed away in his wallet. The TV star explained that he was given the card because the father of one of his friends was the franchisee responsible for creating the Egg McMuffin.

For those who aren’t members of the elite and haven’t made any valiant rescues, receiving one of the elusive Gold Cards proves to be more challenging. One of the only ways for the public to be eligible for a card is to enter one of the chain’s rare promotions, the last of which occurred in December 2022. At the end of a campaign, dubbed SZN of Sharing, three winners were selected to receive not only their own McDonald’s Gold Card, but three more cards to gift to their friends and family as they saw fit. Each of the 12 cards granted the holder up to $10 worth of McDonald’s meals twice a week for life, or for 50 years — whichever comes first.

We’re still holding out hope that one day we, too, will get to enjoy a lifetime of free McNuggets and Big Macs. Hopefully, we won’t have to be billionaires to make it happen.

*Image retrieved from Roland Magnusson via