Deciding how much to tip depends on what kind of service provider you’re working with and how well they do their job. But if you’re looking for a general rule for services in the U.S., you should typically tip 15% to 20% of the bill, according to most etiquette experts we interviewed.
How to tip in general
A 20% tip is generous and requires straightforward math. To calculate a 20% tip, first identify 10%, then double that amount. So, if the total cost of your service was $90.00, find 10% by moving the decimal one spot to the left, which leaves you with $9. Then double that $9 to find your 20% tip: $18.
Read on for the mechanics of how to tip, or jump to the list of how much to tip various professionals.
When tipping, try to give cash if you can. Leave it at your table for a dining service, or hand it directly to the service provider with a “thank you.”
You could also be prompted to tip a certain amount with the credit or debit card you’re using to pay for your service. You may see a line for gratuity at the bottom of your bill, for example. Or you could see electronic prompts to tip, typically through the service provider’s app or at the point of payment.
How much to tip various service providers
Before we get into how much you should tip, let’s start with why gratuity matters — particularly nowadays. Many people in the service industry have struggled financially and are “getting back on their feet,” says Diane Gottsman, founder of The Protocol School of Texas.
She points out that many of these workers are risking their health during the pandemic to serve, often with fewer hours and a larger workload. Given these circumstances, Gottsman says, “do the gracious thing” and leave a tip if you can.
Food and drink servers
Servers. For servers in sit-down restaurants, aim for at least 15% to 20% pretax. If you’re able to tip more than 20%, do so for servers who went “above and beyond,” says Elaine Swann, founder of The Swann School of Protocol, based in Carlsbad, California.
For example, she says, tip more for servers who accommodated a very large party of diners, gave several wine and food recommendations, or accommodated the needs of small children.
Food preparers and baristas. If you’re simply picking up an order from a restaurant, gratuity isn’t necessary but a kind gesture, Gottsman says. Shoot for 10% to 15%, if you can spare it. Same goes for baristas.
Bartenders. Consider a dollar or two per drink, or 15% to 20% of the tab, recommends The Emily Post Institute, a fifth generation family business that gives etiquette guidance.
Food and grocery delivery drivers. Gottsman suggests leaving a tip of at least 15%.
Rideshare drivers. Aim for 15% to 20% gratuity, says Patricia Rossi, a business etiquette coach based in the Tampa Bay, Florida, area. Tip extra to drivers who give helpful advice, she says, such as local spots to explore or avoid. Sparkling clean cars with extra touches — think water bottles and phone chargers — warrant an extra dollar or two. Rossi also recommends giving your driver a high rating for a positive experience.
Spa and salon professionals
Beauticians and cosmetologists. Plan to tip 15% to 20% for services related to your hair or skin, says Crystal L. Bailey, director of The Etiquette Institute of Washington, which is in D.C. Those services could include haircuts and styling, makeup application, eyelash extensions, waxes and manicures and pedicures. (Learn more about how much to tip a hairdresser.)
If you can, Bailey recommends leaning toward 20% for these professionals, given how close they must get to your face during the pandemic.
Massage therapists. Rossi says tipping 15% to 20% is usually appropriate. However, where you get your massage may determine how much gratuity (if any) is expected, says Taelour Wagler, a licensed massage therapist and owner of The Middle Wellness Center in Grand Junction, Colorado. Tipping is customary at businesses described as spas or resorts, she says, but not at chiropractic clinics or physical therapy offices.
If you’re unsure of tipping etiquette, Wagler suggests simply asking the massage therapist what’s appropriate. Or, explore our guide to how much to tip a massage therapist.
Skycaps, bellhops and door attendants. If you anticipate that someone will carry your luggage, get cash ahead of time — ideally in small bills. Give about $2 per bag handled by a bellhop at a hotel, Bailey says. As for skycaps at an airport, The Emily Post Institute suggests $2 for the first bag and $1 per additional bag.
Give $1 to $4 to door attendants for carrying luggage, and $1 to $2 for hailing you a cab, The Emily Post Institute recommends.
Hotel housekeeper. Aim for about $4 or $5 per night, Rossi suggests.
Concierge. Tip a concierge if they made you dinner reservations, booked you a tour or otherwise went out of their way to enhance your trip. Rossi recommends giving $5 to $30 “or more if they went way above and beyond.” For example, perhaps they somehow secured you sold-out concert tickets.
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Questions about how much to tip
What if you’re unsure whether you’re supposed to tip?
Say someone helps you, but you don’t know if tipping is appropriate. “Always err on the side of yes,” Gottsman says.
Still feel weird about it? “When in doubt, ask,” she adds. Pose something along the lines of: “I appreciate your help and would like to tip you — does your company allow you to accept tips?”
What if you can’t afford to tip?
Experts’ opinions vary on what to do if your finances won’t allow you to tip. Swann says that restaurant servers are the only professionals for whom tipping is a “staple” in the United States.
For other kinds of services, she says it’s OK to pay only the base price if you must.
But most experts urge you to plan for that tip. “Put yourself in a position where you can budget an extra 20%,” says Pamela Capalad, a New York-based certified financial planner.
So, if you’re planning on getting an $80 massage, make sure you feel comfortable stashing aside an additional $16 for a 20% tip.
If the idea of shelling out $96 total doesn’t work for you, consider rethinking your plans. “Be honest about what it costs,” says Delia Fernandez, a Los Alamitos, California-based CFP. “If you can’t afford it, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it, or not doing it as often.”
What if you’re unhappy with the service?
Say your experience was unpleasant. Consider discussing your dissatisfaction — calmly and privately — with the person you worked with or their manager.
If possible, “look for an opportunity to resolve it,” Swann says. For example, if your new hair color is far from what you expected, perhaps you could request that it be adjusted for free at another appointment.
As far as tipping, most experts say it’s OK to tip below 15%. But try to give at least some grace (and gratuity).