Do You Tip in America? Understanding the Etiquette of Gratuity

Written by Jim Belt in How Much To Tip

Navigating the tipping customs in America can sometimes feel like a complex dance for visitors and newcomers to the United States. This guide explains tipping etiquette and shows when and how much to tip.

In America, tipping is customary and often expected for services provided. Standard tipping rates are 15-20% at restaurants, $1-2 per drink at bars, 15-20% for taxi drivers, and $1-5 per night for hotel housekeeping.

Tipping Customs

Tippping is customary


  • Tipping is an engrained part of service industry culture in the United States.
  • Service quality should determine the amount you tip, with better service earning a higher tip.
  • While not legally required, tipping is a significant component of income for service employees.

Understanding Tipping in America

When you're in America, tipping is not just a gesture of gratitude but an integral part of service industries. Let's explore its roots, current cultural role, and legal aspects.

Historical Context

The history of tipping in America dates back to the late 19th century when it began as a European import. It was initially resisted but eventually took hold, intertwining with the culture and customs of American life.

The Cultural Significance

Today, tipping is a bedrock of the American service economy. It's a way to express wisdom and respect for good service. Moreover, it's a social norm that demonstrates understanding and acknowledgment of service workers.

Federal and State Laws

Under federal law, employers can pay a lower minimum wage to employees who earn tips, as long as their tips bring their earnings to the full minimum wage. State laws may vary, with some states requiring full minimum wage before tips are counted. It's important to note that tax is also applicable on tips as they are considered part of an employee’s income.

When to Tip

Understanding when to tip can ensure that you’re showing your appreciation for the service you receive. Here’s a helpful guide to common tipping scenarios in various service industries across the U.S.

Service Type Suggested Tip
Dining Out 15-20% of the bill
Bar and Lounge Services $1 per drink or 15-20% of the total bill
Hotel Stays (Bellhop) $1-2 per bag
Hotel Stays (Housekeeping) A few dollars per day
Taxi and Rideshare Services 10-15% of the fare
Beauty and Wellness Services 15-20%
Travel and Tourism Services Modest tip (not specified)

Dining Out

In restaurants, tipping your waiter or waitress is expected due to their modest income reliant on gratuities. Typically, a tip of 15-20% is standard for good service.

Bar and Lounge Services

For your bartender, a tip of $1 per drink or 15-20% of the total bill is customary, as they often provide a quick and personalized service.

Hotel Stays

Tipping in hotels is a way to thank staff for their assistance during your stay. You might tip the bellhop $1-2 per bag, and housekeeping a few dollars per day.

Taxi and Rideshare Services

When riding in a taxi, Uber, or Lyft, it’s usual to tip the driver 10-15% of the fare, especially if they helped with luggage or provided excellent service.

Beauty and Wellness Services

For services at spas or salons, leaving a tip of 15-20% is a sign of satisfaction with the service received, acknowledging the staff's attention and skill.

Travel and Tourism Services

When you're taking tours or using travel-related services, it's kind to offer a modest tip to your guides or service providers to show your gratitude for their expertise and assistance.

How Much to Tip

Understanding the appropriate tipping amounts can enhance your experiences when enjoying services in America. Here's a breakdown to guide you through various tipping scenarios.

Service Category Suggested Tip Additional Information
Restaurants (Standard Service) 15-20% of the pre-tax bill For great service
Restaurants (Buffet Style) Around 10% Smaller tip acceptable
Hotel Housekeeping $2-$5 per day As a thank you for their work
Hotel Bellhop $1-$2 per bag For luggage assistance
Transportation (Taxi) 15-20% of the fare Higher for exceptional service or help with bags
Ride-Sharing Tip through app After the ride is complete
Personal Care (Salon or Spa) 15-20% For a job well done
Personal Care (Short Services) $1-$2 For less costly services

Tipping at Restaurants

When dining at a restaurant, it's common to tip 15-20% of the total bill before taxes, especially if you've received great service. For buffet style, a smaller tip of around 10% is acceptable. If a service charge is already included in the bill, additional tipping is optional.

Tipping Hotel Service

For housekeeping, leave about $2-$5 per day as a thank you for their work. A bellhop typically receives $1-$2 per bag they assist with. If a porter helps you at the airport or train station, the same per bag guideline applies.

Tipping Transportation Services

With taxi drivers, a tip of 15-20% of the fare is the norm. For exceptional service, or help with bags, you might lean towards the higher end. Ride-sharing services often allow you to tip through their app after the ride is complete.

Tipping in Personal Care

If you're visiting a salon or spa, tipping your hairdresser or massage therapist about 15-20% is standard practice for a job well done. For shorter or less costly services, a minimum of $1-$2 can be the right gesture of appreciation.

Tipping Etiquette

When you're in America, understanding tipping etiquette is crucial, especially as it varies by service and occasion. It’s a way to show appreciation for the quality of service you’ve received.

Service Expectations

In the U.S., servers in restaurants typically expect a tip between 15% to 20% of the pre-tax bill. This expectation applies when you've received the standard level of service. Your tips contribute significantly to the wait staff's earnings, as their base wage is often below the minimum wage.

Cash vs. Card Tips

You may tip with either cash or card, but cash tips are generally preferred by wait staff. This is because cash is immediately available to them, whereas card tips may be subject to processing delays. When dining at a lounge or bar, a $1 or $2 tip per drink is customary, with cash often given directly after each drink is delivered.

Handling Poor Service

If service doesn't meet expectations, it's still common to leave a small tip to recognize the effort. A tip of 10% can convey dissatisfaction while still following tipping etiquette. However, if service is exceptionally poor, speaking with a manager may be more effective than adjusting your tip.

Special Occasions and Large Parties

For special occasions like a private party or dining in a large group, gratuity may be automatically added to your bill; this is often 18% to 20%. Always check your bill for an auto-gratuity, especially when dining with a large party to avoid tipping twice. It's appropriate to tip above the auto-gratuity for exemplary service.

Other Tipping Scenarios

When you're out enjoying various services, it's helpful to know the expected tipping etiquette beyond typical restaurant dining.

Service Type Suggested Tip Additional Information
Cafes Spare change or small amount For exceptional service from a barista
Fast Food Not expected, modest tip appreciated For service to your table
Food Delivery 15-20% of the total bill More for poor weather conditions or excellent service
Valet $2 to $5 Upon return of your car
Concierge/Porter Similar to valet services For assistance with bags or parking
Public Transport Not expected For exceptional service, a thank you or small tip is appreciated
Broader Service Industry Not expected For going above and beyond, tipping is appreciated

Cafes and Fast Food

When you order a coffee or grab a quick meal at a cafe, you'll often see a tip jar on the counter. It's customary to drop in your spare change or tip a small amount if the barista provides exceptional service. At fast food establishments, tipping is not generally expected, but for places where you order at the counter and still receive service to your table, a modest tip can be a nice gesture of appreciation.

Delivery Services

Food delivery workers rely heavily on tips for their income. Whether you've ordered takeaway from a local restaurant or groceries, a standard tip is between 15-20% of the total bill. If your delivery arrives during poor weather conditions or the service is notably prompt and friendly, consider tipping on the higher end.

Valet and Parking

Using a valet service typically warrants a tip ranging from $2 to $5. If a concierge or porter assists you with your bags or parking, a tip similar to valet services is also appropriate. Always remember to tip when your car is returned to you, not just when it's taken.

Non-Traditional Tipping Environments

In less traditional settings, like when utilizing public transport or encountering someone from the broader service industry who goes above and beyond, tipping is generally not expected. However, if you feel inclined to reward exceptional service, doing so is certainly appreciated and can range from a heartfelt thank you to a small monetary tip.

Published: 31-01-2024

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