Do You Tip in the US? Understanding Tipping Etiquette Across States

Written by Jim Belt in How Much To Tip

When visiting the USA, you'll quickly notice that tipping is not just a courtesy; it's an ingrained social custom across various services. This guide explains tipping etiquette in the US and shows who and how much to tip.

In the USA, tipping is a customary practice in many service industries. Standard tipping rates are 15-20% at restaurants, $1-2 per drink at bars, 10-20% for taxi drivers, and $1-5 per bag for hotel bellhops. Tips for other services vary but are generally expected.

Tipping Customs

Tippping is customary


  • Tipping is a widespread and expected social custom throughout the USA.
  • Common tipping amounts range from 15% to 20% for restaurants and may vary for other services.
  • Proper tipping etiquette is an important aspect of navigating both casual and formal situations in the USA.

Understanding Tipping in the US

Tipping in the United States is not just a practice but a cultural expectation. Navigate this aspect of American culture with confidence by grasping the historical roots, understanding contemporary etiquette, and recognizing regional practices.

Tipping Etiquette and Customs

In the U.S., tipping is customary and often mandatory in social contracts. Generally, a tip of 15%-20% is standard for waitstaff at restaurants, but it's also expected for services like taxis, hair salons, and hotel staff. Remember, tips supplement the often-low wages of service employees.

Tipping in Restaurants

When dining out at restaurants in the U.S., understanding tipping etiquette is essential. Your tips serve as a significant part of the income for service staff.

Dining Experience Suggested Tip Additional Information
Sit-down Restaurants 15-20% of pre-tax bill Consider collective staff effort; more for large groups
Exceptional Service Above 20% When service exceeds expectations
Takeout 10-15% Appreciated, not obligatory
Fast Food Optional, any small amount If a tip jar is present
Poor Service 10-15% minimum Adjust tip and consider speaking to a manager

Service and Gratuity

At sit-down restaurants, gratuity isn't typically included in your bill unless you're in a large group. Service quality greatly influences the tip you leave. Remember, your server shares tips with other staff, so consider their collective effort when tipping.

How Much to Tip

The appropriate tip amount is usually 15-20% of the total bill before taxes. For exceptional service, you might consider tipping above 20%. Regularly visiting Bankrate might help you stay updated with the latest tipping standards.

Tipping on Takeout and Fast Food

Tipping for takeout isn’t obligatory, but a small gesture of 10-15% is appreciated for the effort. Fast food establishments generally don't expect tips, but if there's a tip jar, feel free to drop in some change.

Dealing with Poor Service

Encountering poor service can be tricky. Even then, it's generally expected to leave a minimum of 10-15%. If the service was unacceptable, OpenTable recommends speaking to a manager in addition to adjusting your tip accordingly.

Tipping for Drinks and Bars

When you visit bars and coffee shops in the United States, understanding tipping etiquette for your beverages is important. Whether you're sipping a latte or enjoying a cocktail, showing appreciation through tips is part of the culture.

Service Type Suggested Tip Additional Information
Bartenders (Simple Drink) $1 to $2 per drink Standard for beer or wine
Bartenders (Cocktail) $2 or more Depends on complexity and service
Baristas $1 per coffee order Especially for crafted or customized beverages
Bar Tab 15-20% of pre-tax bill For all drinks; more for exceptional service
Nightclubs and Lounges 15-20%, higher for table service Influenced by establishment and service level

Tipping Bartenders and Baristas

Bartenders typically expect a tip for their service. For a straightforward drink like a beer or wine, you might leave $1 to $2 per drink. If you’re ordering a more complex cocktail, a standard tip is generally $2 or more, depending on the intricacy and quality of service provided. When you pay in cash, tipping immediately after each drink can help ensure excellent service throughout your stay.

For baristas, a tip of $1 per coffee order is a common gesture to show gratitude, especially if they've crafted a beverage with care or managed a particularly customized order.

Purchasing Beer, Wine, and Cocktails

If you're at a bar where you're running a tab, it's customary to tip 15-20% of the total bill before tax. This is the case for all drinks, whether it's a simple beer, a glass of wine, or a specialized cocktail. However, if the drinks are particularly good or the bartender provided exceptional service, don't hesitate to tip above the standard percentage.

Tipping at Nightclubs and Lounges

Tipping at nightclubs and lounges often adheres to the same 15-20% rule, but it can be influenced by the type of establishment and the level of service. If you're receiving table service or are in a more upscale venue, tips may sway toward the higher end due to the personalized experience. Always tip on the pre-tax amount, and remember that tips are not only a reward for the staff but also a part of their livelihood.

Tipping for Travel and Transport

When you're traveling, handling transport arrangements smoothly includes knowing when and how much to tip those who assist you along the way.

Service Type Suggested Tip Additional Information
Taxi and Rideshare 10-15% of fare 20% for luggage help or exceptional service
Hotel Transport/Shuttle $1-2 per bag or flat $5 More for consistent or exceptional service
Valet Parking $2-5 Adjust based on service level and venue formality
Hotel Porters $1-2 per bag For prompt and courteous service

Taxi and Rideshare Drivers

For taxis and rideshare services like Uber or Lyft, it’s common to add a gratuity of 10-15% of the fare. If your driver helps with luggage or provides exceptional service, consider tipping closer to 20%. Keep in mind that these drivers often rely on tips as a significant part of their income.

Hotel Transport and Shuttle Services

If you're utilizing hotel transport or shuttle services, a typical tip for a shuttle driver is around $1-2 per bag if they handle your luggage, or a flat $5 if there's no luggage assistance. For consistent or exceptionally helpful service throughout your stay, you might choose to tip more.

Valet Parking and Porters

When using valet parking services, a standard tip is $2-5. The amount can vary based on the level of service or the formality of the venue. If a hotel porter assists with your bags, aim to tip $1-2 per bag, especially if they provide prompt and courteous service.

Tipping in Hotels and Accommodation

When staying at hotels, you'll encounter various staff members who make your experience comfortable. It's customary to show your appreciation through tips, which vary depending on the service provided.

Service Type Suggested Tip Additional Information
Room Service 15-20% of bill Similar to restaurant tipping
Housekeeping $3 to $5 per night Increase for high-end accommodations
Concierge $5 to $20 Depending on the complexity of the service
Bellhops $1 to $5 per bag Consider the weight and bulkiness of luggage

Room Service and Housekeeping

Room Service: You’ll want to tip between 15% to 20% of your room service bill, just as you would with a restaurant bill. The convenience of dining in your room merits this gesture of gratitude. Moreover, if housekeeping has kept your room spotless during your stay, a standard tip of $3 to $5 per night is recommended, with a potential increase for high-end accommodations. For more specific guidance, you can refer to a hotel tipping guide.

Tipping the Concierge and Bellhops

Concierge: If the hotel concierge has been particularly helpful, for instance by booking tickets or recommending stellar restaurants, a tip of $5 to $20 is a nice way to say thanks. More elaborate requests might warrant the higher end of that range.

Bellhops: For bellhops, it’s appropriate to tip $1 to $5 per bag they assist you with, especially if your luggage is heavy or cumbersome. Check out additional tipping suggestions from travel experts to gauge the appropriate amount in tipping etiquette.

Tipping at Salons and Spas

When you’re at salons and spas, customary tips reward the personal service you receive. Whether it’s a fresh haircut or relaxing spa treatment, tipping is a way to express your satisfaction.

Service Type Suggested Tip Example
Hairdresser/Manicurist 15-20% of total bill $10 on a $50 service
Massage and Spa Services 15-20% $40 on a $200 service

Hairdressers and Manicurists

At a salon, your hairdresser or manicurist provides a service that’s tailored specifically to you. For a job well done, it’s standard to tip 15% to 20% of the total bill. If your stylist or manicurist delivers exceptional service, you might consider tipping on the higher end of that range. For a $50 service, a $10 tip would be a generous gesture of appreciation.

Massage and Spa Services

Massage and spa services offer a tranquil experience and tipping reflects your level of relaxation. Similar to salons, a 15% to 20% tip is typical for these services. For more expensive spa services, such as a $200 massage, a $40 tip aligns with the 20% tipping standard. Always remember, whether cash or card, these tips are a significant portion of the professionals' earnings in the beauty and wellness industry.

Other Tipping Situations

When engaging with various service providers, understanding when and how much to tip can enhance your experience and show appreciation for their hard work.

Worker Type Suggested Tip Additional Information
Movers $20-$25 per mover Adjust for complexity and physical effort
General Service Industry (Babysitter, DJ, etc.) 10-15% of total bill To express satisfaction and thanks
Tour Guides $1-$2 per hour per guest or up to 10% of tour cost For longer or exceptional tours
Special Services (Medical Professional, Teacher, etc.) Gift or discretionary tip For extraordinary care or effort

Movers and Service-Based Workers

For movers, it's typical to tip based on the complexity and length of the move. A standard tip is $20-$25 per mover for a day's work. However, if they navigate lots of stairs or handle particularly heavy items, consider tipping more. It's a way to acknowledge the physical effort involved.

In the broader service industry, tipping is often expected and is seen as a gesture of satisfaction with the service provided. For instance, if you have a babysitter or a DJ for an event, a tip of 10-15% of the total bill is a way to express extra thanks for their service.

For Special Services and Exceptional Acts

Service industries also encompass professionals like tour guides, where $1-$2 per hour per guest is a good starting point. Yet, for longer tours or exceptionally informative and engaging guides, tipping closer to 10% of the total tour cost is a generous way to say “well done.”

For special services or when someone goes above and beyond their usual duties—such as a medical professional who provides extraordinary care or a teacher who has gone the extra mile with your child—a thoughtful gift or a discretionary tip can be a heartfelt show of gratitude. While these professions do not typically expect tips, a token of appreciation is often well received for exceptional acts.

Financial Aspects of Tipping

When you dine at a restaurant or take a taxi in the United States, your tips directly influence the earnings of servers, wait staff, and taxi drivers. Let's explore how tipping plays a crucial role in their income.

Impact on Workers' Income

For many service employees like wait staff and taxi drivers, tips constitute a significant portion of their total income. The Department of Labor acknowledges that tips can lead to earnings above the minimum wage for these workers, providing an incentive for excellence in service. It's not just a gesture of gratitude—your tips can help workers meet and exceed their financial needs.

Minimum Wage and Tipping Credits

The federal minimum wage for tipped workers is just $2.13 per hour, as employers are allowed to claim a tipping credit. What this means is that if your tips plus the hourly wage don't add up to the standard federal minimum wage, the employer must make up the difference. However, as some Bankrate insights suggest, the actual minimum wage for tipped employees varies state by state, affecting how much you might consider tipping.

Tips Included in Prices

In some instances, a service charge may be included in your bill, particularly in high-end restaurants or when you're part of a large dining group. Unlike discretionary tips, these charges are distributed by the employer and may not always end up fully in the hands of your server. It's important to check your bill to understand if a service charge is included and decide if you want to supplement it with a tip.

Published: 01-02-2024

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