Tipping in the USA: How to Do It Properly

Who should I tip? How much should I tip? Should I tip my Uber driver? Here's everything you need to know before you travel around the United States.

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Here's how to keep your waiters, waitresses, bartenders and cab drivers happy, while also fighting the battle of wage inequality in the USA.

How Much Do I Need to Tip?

Taxi Drivers

Taxi drivers should get tipped 10% of the fare, but a minimum tip is US $2.

Lyft, a ridesharing operator, offers an in-app method for tipping. Uber also introduced tipping functionality in 2017, and it's recommended to tip 15–20% for a great service, 10–15% for good service, and 10% for mediocre service. Don't forget, your Uber driver will rate you, too.

Bartenders

Tip about US $1 per drink – even during happy hour. If your bartender is making expensive cocktails, pay up with a larger tip. If you're unsure, aim to tip 15% of the bill.

Valet 

When you retrieve your car from the valet, US $2 is a standard tip. Some people also tip when dropping the car off. If your valet driver has sprinted three blocks to get your car in a timely fashion, US $5 is a nice gesture.

Bellhop/Concierge

Tip concierge US $1 per bag (US $2 minimum). When you're assisted by a skycap or porter, US $1 per bag is also advised, or US $2 per bag if your luggage is heavier. 

Cafe or Restaurant

Tip cafe or restaurant staff 18% for good service, 20% for excellent service, and 15% for poor service.

Many restaurants and cafes will be recommended how much to tip at the bottom of your receipt, which removes a lot of confusion for customers. Many restaurants will include a tip on the bill for groups of eight or more; look over your check before paying to avoid leaving two tips.

The only time it's acceptable to not tip your waiter or waitress is if you’ve had a terrible time, and you’re confident it’s the wait staff’s fault. Don't take a chef's inadequacies out on your wait staff. Always communicate what the problem was before you leave; you might get a free dessert or a discount for your trouble.

For cafes or takeaway restaurants that do not offer table service, you are not obligated to leave a tip.

No tip is required for a barista, but dropping any loose change into the tip jar is always a nice gesture.

Hotel Stays

Leave US $2–$5 a day for housekeeping staff, depending on the condition you’ve left your room. Leave a tip daily, as the same person may not be cleaning your room each day.

For room service, tip US $5 minimum, but check to make sure the tip hasn't been included on the bill.

The tipping economy extends beyond cabs, restaurants and hotels. In casinos – win or lose – tip your dealer US $5 per hour at minimum, or 10% of your buy-in. Use chips only, never cash. Tip your cocktail waitress US $1 each for free drinks (with either chips or cash).

For spa services or a trip to the hairdresser, tip 15–20%. Coat checkers should get US $1 per garment. A pizza delivery driver should be tipped 10%.

Tipping Tips

Cash tips are always appreciated, so try to keep some dollar bills handy. If you're paying for a two-for-one special or are using a discount coupon, your tip should still be based on the full price.

Many Americans work for next-to-nothing and feed their families on the tips they earn, so failing to tip is a serious, and personal affront. It can get ugly when confronted by an angry worker who, quite rightly, believes you’ve ripped them off.

Always tip discretely; don’t make a big deal out of it. However, don’t tip if it’s not deserved. Perhaps provide the person with polite feedback to let them know why you are not tipping, and maybe they'll take your advice on board for future customers.

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13 Comments

  • mike said

    I do not tip. So im expected to pay more because someones employer is cheap and dont pay their people well???? Its not my problem. Take it up with your boss or get a new job. Im sick of the whole usa wanting tips....ive seen tip jars at gas stations to fast food. Im a mechanic and i dont expect tips. So you make 2.13 an hour as waitress....quit and go find better work. Stand up and get the laws changed...but dont expect me to pay on top of my already too expensive bill. I have a family to feed as well

  • David said

    I think the tipping culture has gotten way out of control. A TIP was supposed to be given when superior service was received. I used to buss tables, and the waitresses (who DID get tips) would often ask me "what 'EXTRA' did you do for me today?" to determine whether or not they should 'share' their tips with me. I asked them what 'extra' they did to get tips, and they were incensed I saw a double standard. They felt they should get tipped as PART of their job. It was expected; but when it was supposed to trickle down, suddenly their were strings attached to the $. Just saying, I've been a US citizen my whole life, and I've worked in jobs that had an 'expectation' of a tip, and back in the 80's the Fed started taxing employees in standard 'tip earning' jobs for a certain anticipated 'base' that they were assumed to be receiving. So if you didn't get tips that met that minimum limit, the Fed taxed you for money you didn't receive.
    Nonetheless, a TIP should be recognition of quality service. If it met your expectations, it's 'customary', but always shouldn't be expected. It is a GRATUITY..as in a show of GRATITUDE for the quality service received. It should not be expected as like no other 'gift' should be expected. The fact that the Fed taxes it is something to take up with your Congressman...not me. If your efforts are superior, I should give a larger tip. If your efforts were sub-par, I would leave either a tiny or no tip. If you were rude or need a 'lesson' in how to do your job, I leave $0.02. This means that no, I didn't 'stiff' you; I specifically left you 2 cents to say..."learn to do your job".

    Short version: tip if you feel you should. If someone did a lot for you and you don't want to acknowledge that, you're a jerk. If someone wants to fight you for not tipping, they are being a jerk, and there is no law requiring you tip, but there are laws against fighting.

  • capecodgirl said

    A few additions from a frequent traveler within the US:

    AT CURBSIDE CHECK-IN at US airports, many carriers will charge you per-piece for your checked luggage. You are still expected to give about $1 per bag as a tip to the porter; if they offer you special service, you would tip more (we sometimes travel with a pet and if they take all our bags and escort us to the ticket counter and the front of the line (!), we will tip generously as an appreciation for the fact that we have just saved 20 minutes!

    (One time flying out of Boston, we had NO cash on us, but had two center-court tickets to the Boston Celtics (basketball) game -- we'd planned to go but had to fly instead and were stuck with the tickets -- so we offered them to the porter instead of the cash we didn't have on hand -- as you might imagine -- he was absolutely thrilled. We aren't rich, but being able to do that made us feel rich!!)

    IF YOU STAY AT A HOTEL MORE THAN ONE NIGHT, you mustn't assume the same person will clean your room each day. I usually leave a tip for housekeeping each morning before I head out. It doesn't change the total amount, but it ensures that the person cleaning my room gets a tip…and sometimes we find nice little extras when we come back.

    AT THE BAR here's one from my friend Lynn: she'd put down a $20 with the first round and (quel surprise) always got attentive service and nice extras that other patrons didn't. If you are just having one beer with your buddy, a $20 is excessive but if you're planning to perch for awhile, consider it.

    YOU DON'T NEED TO TIP AS MUCH at Starbucks and the like (that is, where there is no table service. (Personally, I don't always tip when all someone does is pour me hot water and hand me a teabag - but it's your call). And I do not tip if I'm picking up a takeout order (even though the receipt offers a line to add a tip.)

    PLEASE TIP on the full cost of the meal. If you have one of those wonderful gift certificates that allow you to pay $30 for a $120 meal, remember that the service is still for a $120 meal, and the tip should reflect that.

    fyi - TIP came from the acronym 'to insure promptness' -- but it's evolved into more of an expectation than a true form of appreciation. and if you truly think the service was abominable, I respectfully disagree with the blogger that you should tip them the full amount anyway, though I *do* agree you should try to resolve whatever the problem is before the meal is over. Sometimes the problem is in the kitchen or elsewhere and the server is not responsible…if we have determined it's the server (horrible attitude is about the only crime in our book -- if someone is new, nervous, or whatever but clearly doing their best we are okay with some level of ineptitude…), we'll leave just 10%.

    One last note: if you are in San Francisco, you may find a 2% (give or take) surcharge on your restaurant bill for health care for the employees. It's a city ordinance that passed some time ago.

    As my Mom likes to say, "Safe travels and happy landings!"

  • Liz said

    I know this is late in coming...but as an American, and a former waitress I can tell you most assuredly that if your services is bad at a restaurant, then you most definitely should NOT tip 15%. Talk to management about the bad service - yes. Hopefully you bill will be reduced. Talk to the server about the bad service if you fell comfortable. If you can see that the service is bad because the server/waiter is overloaded with too many tables, take pity on them and don't let it affect the tip. But if the service was bad because the server was lousy or rude or obviously taking a smoke break, then feel free to reduce or eliminate the tip! But yes, on the flip side...if you get excellent service...feel free to increase the tip.

    And to the cheapskate that doesn't tip. If you don't tip because the food at the restaurant already costs too much, then you shouldn't be eating at the restaurant. Stay home and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and leave the tables at the restaurant open to people who will tip and let the server earn a living since yes, in the USA, most states allow servers to be paid less than $3 per hour.

  • John said

    Sorry, no. The tipping culture has run amuck and I will not be blackmailed with such "well intentioned" threats.

    If your employer is not paying you enough, then quit, refuse to work, or form a union and take action. If everybody does this and maintains unity, you can rest assured the economics will change these circumstances.

    And if it comes to physical violence, a service provider can be assured that I will press charges for assault and file suit for damages. That's my tip for the day!

  • Anne said

    I hate the concept of tipping to make up for the poor wages in the USA and Canada. My son works in Canada, and has worked in the service industry where tipping is really there to make up for the low wages. He has also worked in department stores where there is no tipping, but still low wages - how does that work?
    I agree that it is time for US and Canadian employees to stand up for themselves and get the laws changed! We do not encourage tipping in Australia but then our wages are very much better than US and Canada. If that is correct that the US Federal Gov does tax tips received, that is totally unacceptable! What I have always found, particularly in the US, is that the "common" population just take what is handed out to them. USA has many rich and powerful people there but it seems that their aim is to keep the general population down at heel, and US economy shows it! Love visiting USA, but still call Australia home, and loving it!

  • Henk said

    I do tip but resent it most of the time. I am able to carry my own bags and don't appreciate overzealous busboys forcing themselves on me. Taxi drivers? Really? The cars are usually sub standard, they drive overly aggressive and I seldom feel good about the experience. Restaurants is one area where service can make a difference. But I seldom get proper service. I wait for my initial drink. My glass is often empty. And I am always waiting for the bill - never make someone wait to pay. I think tipping has gone too far. What's next, tipping traffic lights for turning green.

  • Anouk said

    I'm from Canada and I hate this tipping mentality. I hate to tip, because tips are suppose to be at your own discretion, when you received an extraordinary service, but that's all.

    So I still tip at the restaurant (real restaurants, not Starbucks or similar), but that's it.

    There is a huge misconception between ''service'' and ''tip''. It is not the same!

  • Sandi said

    I simply never think about tipping..its not aorta of my psyche. When I see all the places you are supposed to tip in the USA i feel bad that I had no idea that this is what is expected. The converse is true..in my country noone would tip daily in a hotel room, or a Starbucks employee or even a taxi driver. I might say keep,the change only because its a hassle but it means having to keep cash on you all the time, when I use cards for everything. Actually I think i use cards for taxis now too. What about bus drivers? Do you tip them?
    Honestly...America needs to get over itself and pay its employees the wages they obviously earn. After all the owner gets their money. Why cant the cost be reflected in paying proper staff wages. Weird...

  • Sandi said

    Hahaha....not aorta (spellcheck gone mad)...part of my psyche

  • Pedro said

    Ive noticed a big move away from Tipping culture in the USA in recent years. The push for a national minimum wage has changed the state of play. Don't feel obliged to tip for poor service. If you are happy upto 10% is more than adequate.

  • Pedro said

    However if you are unhappy with Service. Do not Tip and do not feel guilty.

  • Sarpay Öner said

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    The next day I got the news that you had a tour operator. But all my documents were wet and unusable because I was in the rain for a whole day.

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    I hope you will not have to test it.

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