Food / Groceries, Making Money, Personal Finance, Saving Money

The Best Way to Win the McDonald’s Xbox One Instant Win Contest

McDonald's One Hot Holiday Xbox One instant win game
It’s always a challenge when a new McDonald’s game comes about because there is always a desire to figure out the best way to win the contest. The McDonald’s Xbox One instant win game “One Hot Holiday” is no exception. This game runs until December 23, 2013, but codes can be input to redeem prizes until January 24, 2014. Much like the yearly Monopoly game, there are strategies that can be used to spend the least amount of money and have the best chance to win the prizes you want. Below you’ll find some of the tricks used by those in the know to get the most out of this game.

Collect Pieces from Others

By far the least expensive way to get game tickets is to get them for free. One way to do this is to get them from people who aren’t interested in their pieces. Although I haven’t seen it with this game, there was a person who, while working on his computer, had a sign on his table that said “Wanted: Game Pieces You’re Going to Throw Away” and he collected a bunch of game pieces from people who weren’t interested in the game for last year’s Monopoly game. The same concept could easily be done with this game as well, which would allow you to get pieces for no money at all. I would assume that this strategy would be especially effective with senior citizens (who often frequent McDs) who aren’t likely to have any interest in the prizes being given away.

Trash Trawl

Another way to get pieces for no cost is to dumpster dive. That is, get into the trash and pick out the game pieces that people threw away. Since every piece is a winner and can claim a prize, there is no losing. The big question is whether or not going into the trash is worth the effort. There are quite a few people who simply feel that it’s wrong to trash trawl. What that means is that those who are willing to do it have a pretty good chance of finding quite a few pieces, since not many people are willing to do it. One word of caution if you decide to try this is to check to make sure that it’s legal to do so in your town. Dumpster diving is legal in most places, but if it happens not to be in your town, getting a ticket isn’t going to save you money getting game pieces.

Hit Up Workers

In most cases, McDonald’s workers can’t help you by giving you the game pieces directly. Most stores keep a strict inventory on the packaging which makes it difficult to give away the pieces without buying food (This is the reason that they put the game pieces on food packaging rather than hand out the pieces individually, as they did at one time.). While the workers won’t be able to help out that way, they do have access to pieces in another way. They are the ones cleaning off the tables and taking out the trash, so they have the first opportunity to get any pieces that are thrown away. If you have a friend who works at a restaurant, you can ask him or her to grab those extra pieces when they come across them. Of course, you’ll have to figure out a way to convince them to give them to you and not keep them for themselves.

Hit Up Friends

Another way to score free game pieces is to convince your friends and family to help. If you have grandparents or older friends and family who aren’t into gaming, it can be very effective to ask them to save theirs for you. It might be more difficult convincing younger friends and those that play Xbox, since they will likely want the prizes themselves.


If you can’t get your pieces for free, the least expensive way to get them is by mail. For this game, mailing away for pieces actually makes sense, at least when calculating the cost. The game pieces are being given away on three food items: medium fries, premium wraps and quarter pounders. The least expensive of these is the medium fries with a suggested retail price of $1.49, (it may be more depending on where you live) and it only contains a single piece. You can send away to get the same piece for the cost of two stamps ($0.92) and envelopes (let’s just say $1.00 total for ease). The one exception is in Vermont where it’s illegal for McDs to request for a return envelope meaning the cost per piece is only $0.50 (one $0.46 stamp and one envelope). It appears that Vermont residents could even request the pieces with a prepaid postcard from the post office which would bring down the cost to only $0.33. Mail requests must be postmarked by December 23, 2013 to be valid. The problem with this method is the time involved with sending away for them.

It seems that McDs realized that sending away for free game pieces was a good deal because they limited the number that each individual can request to 500 according to their terms. The problem is that doing so is time-consuming and burdensome. All address information on both envelopes has to be hand written. Any addresses created on the computer, with an ink stamp or sticker are strictly prohibited. You must write out the addresses and return addresses by hand. You also must request each piece one at a time. Yes, this is a big waste of time and resources, but this is specifically done so that most people won’t choose this option. Another limitation the rules impose is that only 5 codes can be entered per person per day.

While this might initially seem like a big waste of time, the fact is that you have a good probability of getting a few of the prizes for yourself, in addition to making some money (see below “making money”).

In order to request game pieces you need to mail your first and last name, street address, city, state, and ZIP Code to the following address:

McDonald’s One Hot Holiday Instant Win Game Piece Request
PO Box #51510
Sparks, NV 89435.

Making Money

I had a reader who made about $1000 on the McDonald’s Monopoly Game by selling the pieces that he collected on eBay and Craigslist. This same concept can be used in this game. If you can get a lot of pieces for free, you could make a decent amount of money. But even if you send away for game pieces, you should still be able to break even. In fact, it’s likely that you can make a profit from my calculation (plus get some prizes for yourself).

The key that would allow this is that every piece is a winner, and each piece has a minimum retail value of $3.00. Looking at the odds, for every 10 pieces you get, you should receive about $50 in retail value. That means if you are willing to take the time to sell what you get on sites like eBay or Craigslist, you should be able to make a profit, even if you need to greatly discount the worth of the prizes. For example, you could sell prize pieces with a $50 retail value for $20 and still make a $10 profit on what you paid to have the game pieces sent to you by mail. For those who live in Vermont and can get the pieces for $0.33 or $0.50, this is a pretty good arbitrage play.

Even though the game ends on December 23, pieces can be entered and redeemed until January 24, 2014.

Instant Win Prizes

This is an instant win prize game, so every piece is a winner.

1 Xbox One and 1 Forza Motorsport 5 Game: (10,001:1 – value $560)
One Month Xbox Music Pass and One Month Xbox Live Gold Membership: (14,001:1 – value $20)
1 Digital HD Movie “The Wolverine” PG13 on Xbox Video: (280:1 – value $15)
One Month Xbox Live Gold Membership: (28:1 – value $10)
1 Ms. Splosion Man Xbox 360 Game Download: (4:1 – value $10)
1 The Maw Xbox 360 Game Download: (4:1 – value $10)
1 Aqua Xbox 360 Game Download: (10:1 – value $5)
1 Enlisted 101 pilot Digital HD episode on Xbox Video: (3:1 – value $3)
1 Raising Hope 401 “DejaVu Man” Digital HD episode on Xbox Video: (3:1 – value $3)
1 Bones 902 “The Cheat in the Retreat” Digital HD episode on Xbox Video: (3:1 – value $3)

It’s a little strange that the music pass with live gold membership winning piece ($20 value) has higher odds of not being found than the Xbox One ($560 value), but that’s the way the game it set up. I’m sure that most people would prefer the Xbox even though the music pass with Live Gold membership is more difficult to win. If you are planning to try to use some of the methods mentioned above, be sure to carefully read the official rules.

For those looking to make a little extra money, these games can end up being a way to add a few dollars to your pocket, if you are willing to thoroughly understand the rules and put the time into getting pieces for as little money as possible. If you have played this game or are trying to arbitrage the pieces, how has this game compared to other McDs games from the past?

9 thoughts on “The Best Way to Win the McDonald’s Xbox One Instant Win Contest

  1. Why would you send away for 500 game pieces when you could only submit less than 200 before the game ends?

  2. You would only want to get that many pieces if you were planning to sell the extra ones to make your money back. If you look at the prize list, most of the prizes are only worth something to an individual once — you don’t need a lot of downloads to the same game, but since the downloads have value, you could probably sell the code for at least the $1 (if not more) it cost to get the game piece. The reason someone would want to get 500 pieces is that it gives them a better chance (about 5%) (although small) to win the Xbox One, the real prize everyone is going for.

  3. While these are overall good ideas, if I may I’d like to point out a few issues with your reasoning here.

    Out of the prizes offered, the only ones you could legitimately hope to profit on are the Xbox Live memberships and the Xbox One. The rest have such high odds and low value that the market will be flooded with people selling their winning piece for $0.50, or just giving them away. Remember that there are over 19 million game pieces out there, and nobody can make use of the same video game or movie download twice. Memberships will have value because people spend $10 on them currently. Getting someone to pay $5 may work out great! Good luck with those 1:28 odds though.

    Also, you mention in your comment to San055 that “500 pieces … gives them a better chance (about 5%) to win the Xbox One,” which is mathematically incorrect. Flipping a coin twice does not give 100% odds of getting heads. Since I am not a statistician, I used a calculator and prize information from the giveaway’s FAQ to find that with 500 pieces your odds of winning an Xbox One are 0.02%. That means if you’re paying $1 per game piece (which is your suggested selling price), you can pay $500 for a 0.02% chance of having an Xbox, or you can pay $499 to buy one at the store!

    You have nothing to lose by collecting free pieces and using your codes when you intended to buy fast food anyway; however, just as gambling in a casino is not a good investment strategy, spending money on these codes to win is a fantastic way to watch your money disappear like magic. Personally, I would have a moral issue with taking money from people who do not understand math, but I can also just as easily see the argument of providing the service of collecting the pieces in exchange for compensation as well.

    If anyone winds up doing this (including you jeffrey), please write up a blog post about your experience and bottom line. It seems like a it would be an entertaining read!

  4. We’ll theoretically it’s impossible to win an xbox but in reality there is just the slightest chance you’ll win but that’s like 1 and 1million so good luck spending money.

  5. You are stupid. Theoretically it is possible, and in reality it is too. And its a 1 in 10,000 chance not million. Smh

  6. Guy’s right, not only its it possible, MANY people have won xbox’s. I know at least 6 people that won of the chef boyardee promotion. If you already eat at MC’ds you might as well play.

  7. I am so bummed out ! I won a one month live gold memberships with the one month music pass and I come to find out the odds of winning that was more slim than winning the xbox! I could sell it for around $10 but i might just use it since my 3 month live is running out this month, but regardless, I sure am lucky.

  8. I’m glad I didn’t have to go to those lengths to win my xbox one, I won on the first night of the contest off my first purchase. I got it off my fries on the mcnuggets combo meal. I didn’t even know t this promotion was going on when I went in. I had it on my doorstep by December sixteenth too. There were supposedly fourteen thousand xbox one/Forza 5 winning tickets but on the one hot holiday site’s winner’s list there’s only a little over twenty five hundred of us who actually won.

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