Gratuity Guideline: Tipping Etiquette in the USA
Starting a new life in an unfamiliar location can be difficult. For those who have recently moved to the United States or are visiting for the first time, this guide includes useful information about dining etiquette and tipping culture.
While tipping is uncommon in many countries around the world, it is normal in the United States. Tip confidently with these guidelines.
Interaction between strangers can be different between cultures. In some cultures, interactions are very minimal but it is relatively normal to greet strangers here in the U.S. These conversations may happen during checkout in a supermarket, coffee shop or simply passing a stranger on the street. When entering a restaurant or any other place, you can greet the receptionist and then receive services.
Typical greetings include:
“How are you?”
“How’s your day going?”
“How are you doing?”
You can simply reply by saying:
“I’m doing fine.”
“Great, how are you?”
“Very well, thank you.”
Feel free to share more, such as observations about the weather or your plans for the rest of the day, but don’t feel pressured to start a full conversation — this is not a request for personal information, it is simply a pleasantry.
So next time when you are checking out at the supermarket, don’t be surprised! Make sure to say “Have a great day” to close off the conversation.
Types of Establishments
At restaurants, a tip of 15%-18% is typically recommended for average to OK service, while 20% is for good service. Feel free to tip over 20% if you receive excellent services.
Don’t be afraid to respectfully voice your needs if you experience an issue with your order or need to request extra sauce, napkins, silverware or beverages while eating.
Tipping here differs based on drink selection. When ordering beer or wine at the bar instead of a table, a $1 tip per drink is acceptable.
A $2 tip may be more appropriate if the bartender is mixing drinks for a cocktail. If sitting at a table, revert to 10%-20% tips for the extra service.
Spa and Salon
A 15%-25% tip is expected if you are satisfied with the outcome.
If you use a coupon or gift card, a tip is expected to show gratitude for the market value of the services.
Counter services, such as coffee shops and fast food restaurants, are not expected to be tipped.
While it is not uncommon to tip a dollar or two, do not feel guilty to select the “no tip” option at these places.
Delivery services such as Doordash, Uber Eats and Postmates pay drivers very little. These drivers make a large portion based on gratuity so a tip of $1-$3 per order is acceptable.
How & When To Tip
Tipping can be done through cash or through digital payments and credit cards. In the restaurant setting, the payment process goes through these steps:
1 | Ask for the Check
After you finish your meal, ask the server for the bill. It will show the total amount you owe for the food and drinks you ordered.
2 | Decide how much to tip
Look for the section on the bill labeled ‘Gratuity’ or ‘Tip’. Decide how much you want to tip based on the service you received and add it to the total bill. The new total will be the bill amount plus the tip. For example, if your bill is $50 and you’re leaving a $10 tip, the new total would be $60.
3 | Decide how to pay
Choose your preferred payment method. You can pay with cash, credit card or sometimes through a mobile payment app like Apple or Google Pay.
4 | Hand over payment
Give the bill and your payment to the server. The server will take the bill along with your card to process the payment and return it to you shortly. If you’re paying by credit card, you will need to sign the receipt that your server returns to you. If you want to pay with a credit card but tip in cash, you can leave the cash on the table before you leave.
5 | Thank your server & leave
After completing the payment, thank the server for their service. A simple “thank you” or a smile goes a long way.
When to tip
- App delivery services
- Hotel housekeeping
- Nail salon/hair salon
- Porters/valet or rideshare
- Restaurant servers
When to NOT tip
- Any government employee/official
- Electrician, plumbers, cable, etc.
- Flight attendants
- Grocery store clerks
- Public services like trash collection or light rail drivers
- Postal services like USPS, UPS, Amazon or FedEx
Did you know?
Some restaurants add an automatic gratuity to the bill for a party of 6 or more. Similarly, some spa places will also add gratuity so always double-check your bills to avoid tipping twice.
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