Tipping in the USA

While on US vacation, you use various services. But are you familiar with the tipping rules in America? Find out how much a tip should be, who should get it, and to whom you should rather not give a "tip."


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Why tipping is more important in the USA than in Europe

In the United States, someone who works in a service job such as waitressing, cleaning, or driving usually receives a much lower salary than someone with an office job. That's why tipping in the USA is not just a nicety and recognition of a service worker's performance but essential for survival.

Especially in the restaurant industry, tips are firmly built into the salary structures. So if you don't tip a waiter after a restaurant visit in the USA, you are cutting into the salary they are entitled to. Therefore, always have a few dollars ready on your trips to reward service providers appropriately.

How much is an appropriate tip in the USA?

When you go out to eat in a restaurant in the States, for example, you should leave a tip of 20 %. If necessary, you can lower it to as little as 15 % if you have a good reason. A tip of between 15 and 20 % is also customary in other service areas.

You should only tip below 15 % if you have experienced poor service. In such a case, we recommend talking to the service employee rather than lowering the tip amount without a comment.

If you tip too little in the USA, you will not make friends and will often be publicly exposed. A clarifying conversation with your wait staff can clear up misunderstandings and also help your counterpart to improve their work.

Who gets a tip in the USA?

With a few exceptions, you can tip all service personnel you deal with in the USA. This includes, for example:

  • Counter staff
  • Wait staff
  • Delivery people
  • Cleaners
  • Hotel staff
  • Cosmetic service providers
  • Cab drivers
  • Domestic helpers
  • Caregivers
  • Craft workers
  • Gardeners
  • Parking service
  • Receptionists and bouncers

Caution: Certain people, such as doctors, lawyers, or police officers, should not be tipped, as it is either considered an insult (e.g., for academics) or may even be considered an attempted bribe (e.g., for government employees and police officers).

Tip included?

If you see the word "Gratuity" with a percentage behind it on your restaurant bill, then a tip is already included in your charge. You can (and should) increase the corresponding percentage to 20 %.

If a restaurant bill does not yet include a tip, you may find the phrase "Tip is not included" or something similar. With no information on the bill, the amount does not yet include a tip.

How should a tip be given in the United States?

In the United States, it is best to give a tip in cash so that appropriate payment is not affected by waiting times or deductions (e.g., on the part of the employer).

However, if cash payment is impossible, you can also tip by credit card. Should you not know the procedure for tipping by credit card, ask the respective service staff for help.

When tipping in the USA, be sure not to discriminate against anyone. This means that you should base the payment amount solely on how often and intensively you dealt with a service person and how good the service was. Criteria such as age, gender, origin, and appearance should not play a role in tipping!

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