The Ultimate Guide to Tipping

Once upon a time, tipping was relatively simple. You might add 10% to 15% to your restaurant bill for the server or hand a dollar or two to the valet who parked your car. But now, it feels as though tipping has become the expectation everywhere.

“Technology is great, but you can also utilize it to push the boundaries,” says Sam Zietz, CEO of GRUBBRR, a company that provides self-ordering solutions such as kiosk software to restaurants.

Today’s sales terminals make it easy to ask for tips as part of a transaction, which is why customers may find themselves facing a tipping screen even in retail locations. However, Zietz doesn’t think people should feel compelled to tip every time they are asked. For instance, the clerk at your local bookstore probably doesn’t need a tip for bagging your purchase.

Instead, tipping has traditionally been reserved for those in service industries. For many of these workers, tips may make up a significant amount of their income, particularly since federal law only requires employers of tipped workers to pay $2.13 an hour in direct wages.

Local customs and personal preferences play a role in tipping decisions, but here’s a look at who should get tipped and how much you should hand over.

Who You Have to Tip

When it comes to who to tip, the guidelines are simple, according to Lisa Mirza Grotts, who has been an etiquette expert for 23 years. “Any time a service is performed, a gratuity is required,” she says.

[READ: How Companies Trick You Into Spending More.]

How much to tip restaurant servers: Twenty percent of the bill has become standard for sit-down establishments and 10% for quick-service restaurants, according to Zietz.

Decades ago, 10% was considered the standard tip for a restaurant meal, and 15% may have been given for exceptional service. Now, 15% might be paltry compared to the standard expectation of 20%.

Likewise, people may have previously skipped tipping at quick-service restaurants, but 10% is now the norm for these dining situations.

Interestingly, Zietz says his company’s data shows workers earn more in tips when customers in quick-serve restaurants order at a kiosk rather than at the counter. That’s not because people tip more at the kiosk — the percentages are roughly the same — but because people tend to order more at kiosks which results in a larger tip amount.

How much to tip for food delivery service: Ten percent or more of the bill for food delivery, according to Grotts, or $2 to $5 per pizza, according to the Emily Post Institute.

“If you get it, you give it,” Grotts says. “Even if you order a burrito, it requires a tip because it’s a delivery, and … a service has been performed.”

While 10% of the bill is the norm, more is appreciated. For foods such as pizza, a flat tip per item may be more appropriate than a percentage.

How much to tip bartenders: About $1 to $2 per drink or 15% to 20% of the tab, according to the Emily Post Institute.

If you order and pay for a single drink, pass the bartender a tip immediately. However, if you’ll be running a tab, wait until you close that out and pay a single tip for the evening’s service.

How much to tip baristas: No obligation, according to the Emily Post Institute.

If a tipping jar is on the counter, there’s no obligation to drop money into it. However, if you are a regular customer or have a special order, leaving some money would be appreciated.

The same would apply to other situations in which a tipping jar might be set out, such as at an ice cream stand, sandwich shop or bakery.

How much to tip movers: About $5 to $10 per mover per hour, according to Architectural Digest.

Unlike wait staff, movers don’t rely on tips for their income, so it can be a judgement call regarding whether to provide one. However, Architectural Digest recommends it and suggests that tipping with cash at the end of the move is the best practice.

Since you might not know how long a move will take, the magazine suggests setting aside an amount equal to 20% of the cost of the move for tips.

How much to tip hotel valet staff: About $2 to $3 for initial service and then $1 to $2 after that, according to Grotts.

Tipping a valet is proper if they are providing a service such as retrieving your vehicle or hailing a cab.

If the person is merely holding the door and greeting you, a tip is not necessary. “Opening the door for you is his job,” Grotts says.

How much to tip a hotel concierge: About $5 to $15, depending on the service, according to the Emily Post Institute.

The concierge desk is there to make your stay pleasant, and there is no reason to tip staff for answering questions about directions or local attractions.

However, if the concierge provides an additional service, such as securing theater tickets or a restaurant reservation, they should be tipped. The Emily Post Institute suggests $5 to $10 for most services. If the tickets or reservation were particularly hard to get, increase the tip to $15 or 10% to 20% of the ticket price.

How much to tip hotel housekeeping: About $3 to $5 for the initial service and then $1 to $3 per night after that, according to Grotts.

Some hotels only provide housekeeping upon request, and the amount you tip workers will depend upon the hotel and level of cleaning provided. Emptying the trash and restocking the coffee machine may not necessitate the same level of tip compared to service that includes remaking multiple beds and running the vacuum.

“Always tip staff per day versus at the end of your stay,” Grotts advises. “That way, the housekeeper who cleaned your room will get the tip.”

How much to tip spa workers: About 15% to 20%, according to the Spa Industry Association.

It’s customary to tip spa workers, such as massage therapists, who offer a service. A 15%-20% tip is the norm, and that amount should be based on the regular cost of the service, not any discounted rate you might receive.

Check to make sure a gratuity isn’t already added to your bill, though.

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How much to tip hairdressers or nail technicians: About 15% to 20%, according to the Emily Post Institute.

As with other service professionals, a 15% to 20% tip is the norm for hair and nail care. Consider tipping more for exceptional service.

How much to tip a taxi driver, Lyft driver or Uber driver: About 15% to 20% of the fare, with a minimum of $1, according to the Emily Post Institute. Tip an extra $2 for the first bag carried plus $1 for each additional bag.

This is another example of where technology has increased worker tips, according to Zietz. He notes that at one time, New York City taxi drivers had pushed back against electronic payments in favor of cash. However, they eventually began to accept them.

“All of a sudden, the amount of tips they were seeing was skyrocketing,” Zietz says.

That may be because it’s easier for customers to place a tip on a debit or credit card than to fish around in their wallet for extra cash.

Who You Don’t Have to Tip

In some situations, a gratuity might be automatically added to your bill.

“Then, (tipping) becomes discretionary if you would like to add more for superior service,” Grotts says.

There are also some professionals who provide a service but are not customarily tipped. These include the following:

— Accountants.

— Financial advisors.

— Lawyers.

— Medical professionals.

— Mechanics.

— Home repair workers.

— Teachers.

In some cases, professional ethics dictate that tips cannot be accepted, while, in other instances, tipping isn’t customary. As a general rule of thumb, any worker who receives a salary or is employed in a well-paid occupation does not need to be tipped.

Depending on your relationship with the worker, another show of appreciation may be appropriate though. For example, it is common to provide teachers with a holiday or year-end gift which could be cash, a gift card or another item.

[READ: How to Do a No-Spend Challenge.]

Tipping While Traveling

If you travel internationally, keep in mind that not all countries approach tipping in the same way as the U.S.

“As a business owner, I have had the opportunity to travel extensively and learn about the tipping practices of a variety of cultures around the world,” says Vladimir Fomenko, CEO of Infatica, a company that provides ethically sourced proxies to businesses. “Tip customs vary widely so it’s wise to familiarize yourself with the local rules before you travel.”

He notes that, in Europe, a service charge is often included on a bill, and this takes the place of tipping. In other countries, trying to offer a tip when it is unexpected can create an awkward or unpleasant situation.

That’s what happened to Zietz when he tried tipping in Japan. “I tried to tip the taxi driver, and I ended up insulting him,” he recalls.

In other countries, tipping is the norm — so much so that you may be asked directly to leave one.

“In Israel, you’re always expected to tip at least 10% and up to 20%,” says Justin Albertynas, CEO of Ratepunk, a hotel rate comparison app. “It doesn’t matter if you liked the service or if it was poor. Don’t be surprised if, on your way out, (you are) asked why you didn’t leave a tip or asked to (leave one).”

While it’s a good idea to research the tipping customs of your destination before traveling, Albertynas says not to stress too much. Locals, particularly in tourist areas, are usually understanding if your tips aren’t exactly what they would consider right.

Tipping Etiquette and Considerations

Tipping is considered common courtesy nowadays, and many service professionals rely on tips for their livelihood. What’s more, tips are a way to express appreciation.

“In principle, it is always great to tip after you get excellent customer service,” Fomenko says.

Being known as a generous tipper, particularly at a business you frequent, can help ensure that a high level of service continues. Workers may be more willing to go above and beyond for customers who regularly reward their efforts with good tips.

On the other hand, don’t feel obligated to tip if the service doesn’t warrant it.

“What I often notice is that people simply tip everywhere when they’re traveling, ignoring the quality of their experience,” Albertynas says. “If you feel that the service was poor, it is unnecessary.”

Still, keep in mind that some aspects of service may be out of a worker’s hands. Even the most attentive restaurant server can’t speed along slow kitchen service or prevent poorly seasoned food.

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The Ultimate Guide to Tipping originally appeared on

Update 05/11/23: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

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