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A guide to tipping in the United States: how much to give and to whom

Tipping often confuses visitors from countries outside the United States where tipping isn't common. Who do you have to tip and how much? Below, we share a guide on common tipping practices in the U.S.

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Tipping often confuses visitors from countries outside the United States where tipping isn't common. Australians often don’t tip as much, for example, because the minimum wage in Australia is higher, at about $13 per hour. In the U.S., in contrast, the minimum wage for employees who also earn tips is $2.13 an hour. For those who don’t, it’s $7.25. Your tips will help make up for their low pay.

But who do you have to tip and how much? Below, we share a guide on common tipping practices in the U.S. 

Are tips mandatory?

While tipping is generally not mandatory in most of the U.S., it is customary in many circumstances for service. However, note that if you see the words “gratuity included” on your bill, you’re not expected to pay a tip: as a service charge, automatic gratuity is mandatory.

You are typically expected to tip on the pretax amount rather than the full bill although the latter is a nice bonus. On a large bill, the difference can add up, especially in places where there is a high local sales tax.

Who should you tip?

As a general rule, you should tip anyone who works in the service sector—that is, any employee who provides you with a service that helps you. Servers work hard for the money and generally friendly and knowledgeable. 

Examples of service providers who are usually tipped include:

  • Waiters

  • Bartenders

  • Hotel concierge and any other concierge worker

  • Doormen

  • Bellhops (people who bring your luggage to your hotel room)

  • Tour guides

  • Hairdressers or hairstylists

  • Manicurists 

  • Food delivery people

Do note, however, that you shouldn’t offer tips to everyone. In some industries, workers aren’t allowed to accept gratuities. For example, government workers, educators, U.S. postal service mail carriers, flight attendants and certain fast-food workers aren't allowed to accept tips.

How much should you tip at a bar or restaurant?

Generally, tipping 15% to 20% on top of the bill before sales tax is standard, with 25 percent given for exceptional service. If you’re paying with a credit card, you can leave the tip on the credit card.

If you’re just getting draft or bottle beer, $1 or $2 a drink is generally acceptable, but for fancier drinks, consider tipping 20% or $2-$3 per drink.

If you’re buying a morning coffee, the bill is usually gratuity free, although you may see a tip jar near the cash register and opt to throw in a couple of dollars as a gesture of thanks. 

If you have food delivered, try to tip at least $5 (more if the weather is bad). 

What about tipping taxi drivers, manicurists, hairdressers or bellhops?

For drivers, manicurists and hairdressers, 15 to 20% is typically deemed a reasonable tip. Bellhops should receive $1 -2 per bag they carry.

The takeaway

For more resources on how to navigate your new life in the U.S., visit Nova Credit’s resource library where you can learn about the immigration process.

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