This is not a McDream, but for most McDonald's diners, it certainly is a McLongshot.
McDonald's is giving away free food "for life" in a contest aimed at boosting the popularity of its online ordering system.
The winner will receive what the company calls its new McGold Card, good for two free meals a week for 50 years. The prize is valued at $52,350, according to the contest website. The promotion starts Friday and runs through Aug. 24.
Still, if you love Big Macs, the prospect of being able to chomp through 5,200 over the next half-century might sound appealing.
Though intended to generate attention, the promotion actually could be a marketing McCoup for the Golden Arches.
“This is going to cost them less than one corporate Christmas party,” said Rob Frankel, a Los Angeles-based branding strategy expert. “I don’t think it’s going to do anything to encourage the app usage. You have a much better chance of winning a state lottery than picking something like this up.”
McDonald's didn't release the odds of winning, saying in the contest's rules that they "will be determined by the number of eligible entries."
There will be only a single winner, which makes McDonald’s looks “incredibly cheap and chintzy,” Frankel said.
McDonald's isn't the first to run a lifetime free food promotion.
The contest is similar to one run by coffee chain Starbucks, which was called Starbucks for Life, only not as generous.
For the coffee giant's fourth annual sweepstakes, which ended in January, five U.S. winners won the grand prize, worth up to $56,575 each, entitling them to a free beverage or food item of their choice once a day for 30 years.
This week, Starbucks launched a new contest, Starbucks Summer Game Boardwalk, with $1.7 million in prizes.
Through Sept. 10, members of the Seattle-based chain's loyalty program can enter for one of three grand prizes – free drinks daily for 10 years, worth more than $18,300 apiece. Ten will win free drinks for five years, and Starbucks will award free drinks over shorter time frames along with smaller prizes such as coupons.
There’s also a contest for nonmembers, where five will win free drinks for a month, worth $155.
Taco Bell gave a lifetime of food away in its “Eleven Everlasting Dollars” challenge in 2014. The odds of winning were steep at about 1 in 2.4 billion but 11 won the prize worth $10,000 each.
To enter McDonald's McGold Card contest, place a mobile order on the McDonald's app. Email entries also will be accepted and don't require a purchase.
In addition to the free food and bragging rights, the winner also gets a custom gold-plated phone case.
The fast-food giant launched its mobile app in 2015, then added mobile ordering and payment features last year. Mobile Order & Pay is available at nearly 14,000 U.S. locations.
How to enter
- Download the McDonald’s smartphone app.
- Place an order with the app.
- Pay with a major credit card, which won’t be charged until you check in.
- Pick up your order. Check in at participating restaurants and choose to pick up your order inside the restaurant, on the drive-thru or at designated curbside spots.
- Alternate entry: McDonald's is also taking entries without purchases. To enter send "an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with only the date (mm/dd/yy) you are sending the email in the subject line and your first/last name in the body of the email. Limit one (1) Entry per day (regardless of method)."
- Learn more about the contest at www.mcdonalds.com/MobileMcGoldCard.
Summer Game Boardwalk
- Earn up to three game plays per day on qualifying purchases with your registered Starbucks Card or with your card in the Starbucks app – one purchase before 2 p.m. gets you one play and a purchase after 2 p.m. is two plays.
- Go to www.starbuckssummergame.com and log in to your Starbucks Rewards account to your access game plays.
- Follow the instructions on the game page. Each instant win game play will result in one game ticket or one instant win prize.
- Collect tickets for a chance to win free drinks for 10 years or instant win prizes like free drinks, food or bonus stars. Stars turn into free drinks and food items with the loyalty program.
- You can play without making a purchase. Sign up for free entries at the bottom of the game's page. Find the link to sign up for free entries on the paragraph that starts "NO PURCHASE NECESSARY." You'll get an email with a game play, which will take you back to the contest website.
- Go to www.starbuckssummergame.com and click on the “Play the Mini Game” link.
- Follow the instructions to complete and submit the registration form including a valid email address.
- Get one entry into the sweepstakes and one instant win game play per day.
Kelly Tyko is a consumer columnist and retail reporter for Treasure Coast Newspapers and TCPalm.com, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. Read her Bargainista tips at TCPalm.com/Bargainista, follow her on Twitter @KellyTyko and email her at email@example.com. Sign up for her weekly newsletter at www.tcpalm.com/featured-newsletter/bargainistabest.