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Gift card season brings merch and holiday hopes of discounts

McDonald’s and Chipotle add the thrill of mystery to their promotions.
Gift card promotions North Italia
Photo courtesy of North Italia and Norms.

‘Tis the season—or SZN, as McDonald’s would put it—for gift cards, and there are opportunities (for the very lucky) to win a lot of free food this year.

A number of restaurants are rolling out what are pretty typical gift card promotions this time of year. North Italia, for example, is offering a free bonus $20 gift card for those who buy $100 worth of gift cards. Norms is offering a $10 bonus card with the purchase of $50 in Norms’ gift cards or a $5 bonus for each $30 gift card purchased—plus a $1 donation for every card sold to Make-A-Wish.

Bojangles is featuring a “12 days of Bo” promotion with various surprises and delights, including a free Cajun Filet Biscuit for those who download the app through Dec. 10. And the chain has tapped TikTok duo Cost ‘n’ Mayor to conduct a dance challenge based on “Carol of the Bells” featured in the Bojangles commercial.

But both McDonald’s and Chipotle have gone a bit beyond with their holiday promotions.

Here’s a look:

McDonald's McGold Card

Photo courtesy of McDonald's.

McDonald’s on Tuesday unveiled a legit version of the fabled McGold Card, guaranteeing the recipient free McDonald’s for life. Well, really two meals a week for 50 years, when you read the small print.

Reports of a free-food-for-life card given to various VIPs have floated for years. Actor Rob Lowe claimed to have one, given as a gift by Egg McMuffin creator and franchisee Herb Peterson, for example, according to Business Insider.

Starting Dec. 5 through Dec. 25 (the “SZN of Sharing”), every purchase made through the chain’s app gives fans a chance to win a McGold card. And, to make it extra special, this year winners can share access to the mythical card with three family members or friends.

“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 and customer experience officer, in a statement. “Just by using the McDonald’s app, everyone can experience the joy that comes with sharing McDonald’s this holiday season.”

And that’s not all they can win. Using the app also gives access to two exclusive merch drops on Dec. 7 and 14, which will include gift options like Chicken McNugget stockings (one assumes the Christmas kind of stockings), McDonald’s Dream Order PJs, an A.M. Wrapper hoodie (or a P.M. Wrapper hoodie) in Egg McMuffin or Cheeseburger prints, a puzzle featuring dipping sauces, or even a Hamburglar graphic tee, hoodie or beanie.

And then, of course, there are other discounts, like free nuggets with the purchase of a Big Mac or Crispy Chicken Sandwich, or a 50-cent Double Cheeseburger.

Chipotle, meanwhile, is going for a bit of mystery.

Chipotle Mystery Box

Photo courtesy of Chipotle.

Starting Dec. 1, the chain’s merch site chipotlegoods.com will feature Mystery Boxes filled with treats that might include the famed Cilantro Soap, which sold out last year in less than 12 hours, and other items. But randomly hidden within some boxes (which are wrapped like a burrito) will be a limited-edition, stainless steel $500 Chipotle gift card.

The Mystery Boxes come in two sizes that can be purchased: a small has three to five items worth $60, but is priced at $30. The large has four to eight items and is $50 (though worth $100).

All profits go to support organizations that make apparel and farming more sustainable, Chipotle said.

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