Tipping culture in the United States

Tipping is very much a part of the culture in the USA. Though voluntary, tips are expected at restaurants, cafes and diners, and also by service staff such as taxi drivers, valet attendants, porters and hotel maids. If you leave an establishment without giving a tip, it’s very likely you’ll offend the person who served you.

Why is there a big tipping culture in America?

Why is tipping so important in the United States? People who work in the hospitality and service industries in the States generally receive the minimum wage, which is quite low compared to other Western countries like Australia where you can earn a decent salary on the minimum wage.

Service staff therefore rely on tips as a major source of income, so you’ll often find that waiters and bar staff will go the extra mile to ensure you have a great time.

How much should you tip in America?

The recommended tip amount is 15% to 20% of the bill at cafes, diners and restaurants, but you’re welcome to tip more if you experience top-notch service.

For bartenders and hotel staff who provide a personal service like carrying your bags or cleaning your room, $1 is standard – so make sure you always have a few spare coins.

Should you tip if a gratuity is added to the bill?

Some establishments – particularly in touristy places or if you’re part of a large group – will add a gratuity to the bill. It may also be added if it's a public holiday.

Check your bill as it’s not expected to leave a tip on top of this. There’s also no harm in disputing the gratuity with the staff if the service wasn’t up to standard and you think the amount is too high.

Using a group kitty

If you travel with us, your local leader may discuss the idea of running a group tipping kitty on the first day of your trip. In a group tipping kitty, everyone contributes an equal amount of cash which your leader then uses to tip waiters, drivers and hotel staff on your behalf.

Your leader will keep a running record of all monies spent, which can be checked anytime. Any cash remaining at the end of the trip is returned to group members.

A kitty is often the easiest way to avoid the hassle of needing small change and knowing when and what is an appropriate amount to tip.

Participation in a kitty is optional, and you’re welcome to manage your own tipping separately if you prefer.

Please note the tipping kitty excludes tips for your leader.

Want to learn more about the USA? Return to USA FAQs

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