How much should we actually tip in the USA at restaurants, bars, hotels, taxis, and nail saloons? Tipping in USA can be very confusing for visitors, and most of us are afraid to tip too much or too little. Some people even leave a tip when they order a coffee to go.
In this tipping guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about tipping in America – who you should leave a tip for and how much.
How tipping started in the USA
Rumors say that tipping came to the USA by Americans who traveled to Europe where tipping was a part of the culture. When they came back to America, they wanted to seem more cultured and in the know than their friends, and started leaving tips.
In the 1960s the US Congress decided on the “tipping credit” which meant that employers could pay their employees below the minimum wage if they could earn tips on the job. This is still how it works in many states today, which means that if they don’t get tips, they go home with almost nothing. Some states like Georgia and Wyoming have a minimum wage of only $5 per hour. In New York, it’s $14.
People are starting to get sick and tired of having to leave tips everywhere, even though they were not happy with their food or service.
More and more companies are trying to ban tipping and instead give their employees a good salary. The vegan restaurant Dirt Candy in New York City is a good example of that. They treat their employees like professionals with a good salary where they make $25 per hour and don’t accept any tipping.
How to tip in the USA
Keep in mind that these are my recommendations. If you ask someone else about tipping in the USA, they might have a slightly different opinion.
Tipping at restaurants
Tipping is very important for employees at restaurants. If you’re happy with your service and food, make sure to leave a tip since it some cases it makes up most of the employee’s salary. In NYC you can leave a 15-20% tip, but the most common is 20%.
An easy way to calculate the tip is to look at your receipt and take the tax amount which is 8.875% and double it. Then the total tip amount will end up being around 18%.
Don’t forget to check your receipt before leaving a tip since it’s sometimes included in the price. Restaurants sometimes automatically add an 18% tip to your bill, especially for tourists and larger groups. This is normally called service charge, or gratuity on your receipt.
Tipping in a bar
If you’re sitting down and getting table service you can go by the same rules as for restaurants. If you order drinks directly from the bar you can tip a little less. The general rule is to leave $1-2 per drink you order – $2 if it’s a cocktail since it’s more work to make one, and $1 for a beer or a glass of wine.
Tipping at hotels
Here is a little guide on how to tip at hotels in NYC
- If the doorman helps you get a taxi, you can tip $2-5.
- If someone helps you up with your bags to your room you can gice $5.
- If you wish to leave a tip for the cleaning staff, you can tip $1-2 per day and leave it in an envelope in your room.
- If someone helped you with parking and brings up your car, you can give them $5.
Tipping in a taxi
When taking a taxi in New York it’s most common to tip 15-20% of the total amount. If you don’t have cash you can always add a tip at the end of your trip when you pay. Different options for tipping will pop up on the screen when you pay for your ride using a card. I personally select the lowest tipping amount which is 15-18%.
Tipping at a hair or nail saloons
If you’re happy with your haircut or nails in the end it’s most common to leave a 20-25% tip.
What happens if you don’t leave any tips?
Be ready to be chased down the street if you don’t leave a tip. Americans are not very shy and will definitely ask you why. They will most likely confront you and ask if you were unhappy with your food or service.
If you absolutely don’t want to leave a tip it’s better that you explain that when you pay for your food in the restaurant. If you don’t tip or tip to little, there is a chance you might not be welcome back to that restaurant.
Tip using cash or card?
This doesn’t matter too much, but most people prefer to get their tips in cash. Then they can go home with their tips that same night. If you tip using your card they have to wait a few days to get it.
When you don’t need to leave a tip
I personally have a rule that I don’t leave a tip if I don’t get any service. This would be places like fast food restaurants where I am the one picking up my food and cleaning up. The same thing for a to-go coffee. Even though they don’t provide service, they always have a little tipping jar next to the register or ask for tips on the screen when you pay with a card. The machine forces you to select the “I don’t want to leave a tip” option, which makes most people feel a little guilty.