Tipping in the United States: A Guide to Cultural Norms and Etiquette

Discover the etiquette, customs, and guidelines of tipping in the United States. From restaurants to hotels, this comprehensive guide reveals the dos and don’ts to ensure a seamless tipping experience. Explore the norms and expectations to enhance your understanding of this cultural practice in the United States.


Tipping in the United States, is an integral part of the service industry. From restaurants to hotels, taxis to hair salons, tipping is expected and often considered customary. Understanding the ins and outs of tipping can help both visitors and locals navigate social expectations and ensure a smooth and pleasant experience. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the cultural norms and etiquette surrounding tipping in the United States.

Tipping in the United States: A Brief Overview

Tipping, in its simplest form, is the act of voluntarily giving an extra amount of money as a token of appreciation for good service. In the United States, tipping is an important aspect of service industries, as it supplements the wages of workers who often rely on tips to make a living. While not mandatory, tipping is strongly encouraged and expected in most situations.

The Importance of Tipping

Tipping plays a significant role in the livelihood of service industry professionals. Many employees in these sectors receive a lower base wage with the expectation that tips will make up the difference. By tipping generously, you contribute to the financial well-being of these individuals and show appreciation for their hard work.

Tipping Rates and Customary Amounts

The standard tipping rate in the United States is typically 15% to 20% of the total bill before taxes. However, it’s essential to note that tipping rates can vary depending on the service provided and the level of satisfaction experienced. Here is a breakdown of customary tipping amounts in different sectors:

  1. Restaurants and Bars: 15% to 20% of the total bill is the norm. If the service was exceptional, tipping on the higher end of the spectrum is appreciated.
  2. Hotels: It’s customary to tip hotel staff, including bellhops, housekeeping, and concierge. For bellhops, a tip of $1 to $2 per bag is appropriate, while $2 to $5 per day is suitable for housekeeping. For concierge services, a tip of $5 to $10 is common, depending on the complexity of the request.
  3. Taxis and Rideshares: Tipping taxi drivers and rideshare drivers is expected. A 15% to 20% tip based on the total fare is a reasonable amount to consider.
  4. Salons and Spas: Tipping hairstylists, barbers, and spa service providers is customary. Around 15% to 20% of the service cost is an appropriate tip.

Tipping in Different Scenarios

Tipping in Restaurants: Showing Appreciation for Excellent Service

When dining at restaurants in the United States, tipping is an essential part of the dining experience. It is customary to tip waitstaff based on the quality of service provided. Here are a few key points to keep in mind:

  1. Should I tip on the pre-tax or post-tax total? It’s generally recommended to calculate your tip based on the pre-tax total.
  2. How do I calculate the tip? To calculate the tip, multiply the total bill by the desired percentage (e.g., 18%). Round up or down to the nearest whole dollar amount for convenience.
  3. What if I have a large group? Some restaurants automatically add a gratuity charge for large groups. Check the bill to avoid double-tipping unintentionally.

Tipping in Hotels: Expressing Gratitude for Exceptional Service

Hotels provide a wide range of services, and tipping is a way to show appreciation for the staff’s efforts. Here are some key considerations when tipping in hotels:

  1. Bellhops and Valet Parking: A tip of $1 to $2 per bag is appropriate for bellhops. For valet parking attendants, a tip of $2 to $5 when retrieving your vehicle is customary.
  2. Housekeeping: Leaving a tip of $2 to $5 per day for housekeeping staff is considered a thoughtful gesture. Place the tip in an envelope or clearly mark it as a tip to avoid any confusion.
  3. Concierge Services: If the concierge assists you with reservations, recommendations, or other special requests, it is customary to tip $5 to $10 depending on the level of service.

Tipping in Transportation: Recognizing Service and Professionalism

Whether you’re taking a taxi or utilizing a rideshare service, tipping the driver is customary in the United States. Here are some tips for tipping in transportation:

  1. Taxis: Calculate the tip based on the total fare before any additional charges or tolls. A 15% to 20% tip is generally expected.
  2. Rideshares: Tipping through the rideshare app is a convenient way to express your appreciation. Similar to taxis, a 15% to 20% tip is the norm.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Should I tip in fast-food restaurants?

In fast-food restaurants where counter service is the norm, tipping is not expected. However, if there is a tip jar at the counter, you can leave loose change or a small amount to show appreciation for exceptional service.

Is it okay to tip with a credit card?

Yes, it is common to tip with a credit card. In restaurants, you can add the tip to the total amount when paying with a credit card. However, it’s always a good idea to carry some cash for situations where tipping with a card may not be possible.

Are there any situations where tipping is not required?

While tipping is customary in most service-related industries, there are a few instances where it is not expected. These may include self-service establishments, such as buffet-style restaurants or take-out orders. However, if you receive exceptional service or special attention, it is still considerate to leave a small tip.

Can I tip service providers with gifts instead of money?

While gestures of appreciation are always welcome, it’s important to remember that service industry professionals rely on tips as a substantial part of their income. Cash is the most practical and preferred method of tipping. However, if you have a personal relationship with the service provider, a thoughtful gift can be a nice addition to a monetary tip.

Should I adjust the tip based on the quality of service?

Yes, tipping is often tied to the quality of service received. If you experience exceptional service, it’s customary to tip on the higher end of the customary range. Conversely, if the service is subpar, you may choose to adjust the tip accordingly or speak with a manager if the issues are significant.

Are there regional differences in tipping customs within the United States?

While the overall tipping customs in the United States are relatively consistent, there may be slight regional variations. For example, in some areas, such as major cities with a higher cost of living, tipping on the higher end of the customary range may be more common. It’s always a good idea to research the specific tipping customs of the region you are visiting to ensure you adhere to local norms.


Tipping is an essential aspect of American culture and plays a significant role in the service industry. By understanding the cultural norms and etiquette surrounding tipping in the United States, you can ensure a positive and respectful interaction with service providers. Remember to tip generously for exceptional service, express your gratitude, and contribute to the livelihood of hardworking individuals. By embracing tipping customs, you become an active participant in the service industry ecosystem.

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About The Doers Firm

The Doers Firm is a studio that focuses on web development and digital marketing. They specialize in creating websites and implementing digital marketing strategies. The team at The Doers Firm is highly regarded and consists of passionate individuals. They have also developed a useful tool called the Tattoo Tip Calculator, which helps solve a specific problem.

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