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Tipping in America

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

"What are tips?"

In fact, the word 'tip' has a few different meanings and uses, but for this article, tips are extra money given for some service (for example, extra money given to a waiter after a meal). Tipping is really important in America.

So, today let's talk about how to tip. I want to focus on tipping at a restaurant--it’s the classic case.

"When should I leave a tip?"

95% of the time, you should leave a tip when you go out to a restaurant, whether it's breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Many service jobs in America depend on tips. A waiter, for example, may only make $3 or $4 per hour. Without tips, they would not survive. So, you should always leave a tip when you go to an American restaurant UNLESS the service was terrible.

When can I not leave a tip?

People sometimes don't tip if the waiter/waitress is unkind, makes many mistakes or forgets about the table he or she is supposed to be waiting on.

If the service is OK, you should tip. If you don't, don't go back to the restaurant. If your waiter's service was really terrible, tell the manager.

"How much should I tip?"

The range for tips is between 10% and 20% of the bill. If the service wasn't great, tip 10%. It if was so-so or good, tip 15%. Excellent service may deserve 20% (once I tipped 50% because I thought the waitress was cute...). At really nice high-end restaurants, tip 20%.

"How do I know if my service was good or not?"

Well, you'll know it when you see it.

If your waiter/waitress is friendly, quick, efficient, and generally improves the quality of your meal, you've had good service.


Meal price: $84.36
Tip at 20%: $17.00 (rounded to nearest dollar)
How should I leave a tip?
If you pay with a card, you'll have the option to write in (by hand) the amount you want to tip on your credit card receipt. This is probably the most efficient way to tip.
Like this:
Amount: $84.36
Tip: __$17.00_____
Total: __$101.36__

Many people prefer to tip in cash. For many service jobs, you can tip simply by handing that person the amount you want to tip. However, for waiters/waitresses, don't hand them money; this will be uncomfortable. One summer, when I was 22, I worked as a bartender and waiter in Colorado. One man always handed me $20 tips. While I liked getting such huge tips, it was a bit awkward to be handed money in this way.

So, you should just leave your cash on the table where the waiter will easily see it. Some people put it halfway under a plate, and some people leave it under the small book which contained the bill. Any place is acceptable, as long as it can easily be seen.

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