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A Comprehensive Guide to Tipping in the United States

  • February 29, 2024
  • 4 min read
A Comprehensive Guide to Tipping in the United States

Tipping in the United States can be puzzling, especially for visitors from countries where tipping is not customary. In the U.S., tipping is not just a way of saying thank you for good service; it’s an integral part of certain workers’ incomes. This guide will help demystify the practice and provide clear guidelines on how to tip appropriately across various services.

Understanding the Tipping Culture in the U.S.

Why Do We Tip?

In many service industries in the U.S., employees receive a lower base pay with the expectation that tips will make up the difference to reach a standard living wage. Tipping is considered a social norm and, in some cases, a social obligation.

Who Should You Tip?

The list includes but is not limited to waitstaff at restaurants, bartenders, taxi drivers, hairdressers, bellhops, hotel housekeeping, and many more in the service industry.

Tipping Etiquette: How Much and When?

Dining Out

  • Sit-down Restaurants: The standard is to tip between 15-20% of the pre-tax bill. If the service was exceptional, you might consider tipping more.
  • Buffet Restaurants: A tip of 10% is customary since the service does not include table service.
  • Takeout: No obligation to tip for takeout, but 5-10% is appreciated for good service or large, complicated orders.
  • Delivery: Tip 10-15% for food delivery, with a minimum of $2-5, depending on the complexity and size of the order.

Bars and Cafés

  • Bartenders: $1-2 per drink or 15-20% of the total tab.
  • Coffee Shops: Tipping is optional but appreciated, especially if your order is complex or you’re a regular customer. A tip jar is usually available for this purpose.

Travel and Accommodation

  • Taxi Drivers: 10-15% of the fare, plus an extra $1-2 if they help with luggage.
  • Ride-Share Services: Similar to taxis, though the app may provide a suggested tip.
  • Hotel Housekeeping: $1-5 per night, left daily with a note saying it’s for housekeeping.
  • Bellhops: $1-2 per bag, with a minimum of $5.

Personal Services

  • Hairdressers and Barbers: 15-20% of the total service cost.
  • Spa Services: 15-20% of the service charge.
  • Manicurists: 15-20% is typical for a manicure or pedicure.

Miscellaneous Services

  • Food Trucks: Tipping is not required, but 10% is a nice gesture for good service.
  • Coat Check: $1-2 per coat is customary.
  • Furniture Delivery: $5-10 per person, depending on the size and difficulty of the delivery.

Tipping on Holidays

During the holiday season or special occasions, it’s common to tip regular service providers a little extra as a thank you for a year of good service. This can include childcare providers, cleaners, and anyone else who regularly assists you.

How to Tip

  • Cash is King: Tips are traditionally given in cash. This ensures that the person providing the service receives the full amount promptly.
  • Credit Cards: If you’re paying by credit card, you can add the tip to the total charge. Just make sure to write the tip amount on the receipt and total it before signing.
  • Discreetness: Be discreet when giving tips, especially cash. It’s polite to hand over cash tips folded in your hand with a thank you.

When Not to Tip

It’s important to know when tipping is unnecessary. In fast-casual restaurants where you order at a counter or in grocery stores, tipping is not expected. Additionally, in some high-end restaurants, a service charge may be included in your bill; in such cases, additional tipping is optional.

Tipping Faux Pas to Avoid

  • Over-Tipping: While generous, it can sometimes create awkwardness, especially in modest establishments.
  • Under-Tipping: This can be seen as a statement that you were dissatisfied with the service.
  • Tip Shaming: It’s considered rude to criticize others for how much they tip.

Final Thoughts

Tipping remains a personal and subjective practice, but in the U.S., it’s a significant part of the culture and economy for service industry workers. Being informed about the general guidelines ensures that you can navigate this social norm with ease and grace, showing appreciation for the hard work of those who serve you. Remember, when in doubt, the 15-20% rule is a safe bet for most tipping scenarios.


About Author


GreetingsfromAbroad.com is a travel blog founded by keen traveler, writer and experienced digital nomad, Kojo Enoch. Currently Kojo lives on the beautiful, sunny island of Malta. This website is run by a solid team of expert digital nomads,  avid travelers, photographers and writers from all over the world.

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