There’s a big tipping culture in the USA, particularly in diners and restaurants where wait staff often rely on a tip to make up a portion of their daily pay. However, for some people, particularly those visiting the United States from countries where tipping isn’t in their culture, this can be a hard thing to navigate.
At Crown Currency Exchange, we believe that your holiday should be as stress-free as possible. So, to help make things clearer, we’ve created this ultimate guide to tipping in the USA.
What is the Tipping Culture in the USA?
Tipping culture is expected in several service industries across the USA and is most common in restaurants where it is customary to tip your server around 15-20% of the total bill for good service provided. However, it isn’t just restaurants where tipping is commonplace, and it is also expected in hospitality, taxis, hair salons, and more.
Tipping in the USA also varies based on region, with urban areas leaning towards higher percentages, and while tipping isn’t legally mandatory in the United States, it has become a social norm. In fact, not tipping can be seen as rude or inconsiderate unless you received particularly bad service.
Why is Tipping So Common in the USA?
There are a few reasons why tipping is so common in the USA, but the biggest is simply due to wage disparities. In many states, employees working in the service industry can be paid a lower minimum wage with the expectation that the tips they receive will supplement their income well enough to create a living wage.
There are also a couple of historical reasons why tipping is now so common in the USA, the first of which dates all the way back to the abolition of slavery, where tipping was used as a way to avoid paying recently freed slaves for their work in the service industry. Tipping also allowed customers to show appreciation to discreet bartenders during the prohibition era.
This, along with the influence of European customs over time, shaped a tipping culture in the USA and impacted various service sectors to this day.
When Should You Consider Leaving a Tip?
With tipping being so common in the USA, there are several instances in which you should consider leaving a tip. These include:
Tipping Servers & Bartenders
Whether you’re visiting high-end restaurants, a diner, or a bar, it is customary to tip both servers and bartenders once you have received the bill. The only exception to this is if the service you received was not up to standard.
What is a Fair Tip to Leave a Server or Bartender in the USA?
For servers, a tip of around 15-20% of the total bill before taxes is considered fair. So, if your bill comes to $50 USD, a tip of $7.50-$10 USD ($11-$14 AUD) should be left. It’s slightly different for bartenders, with an expected tip of $1-$2 USD ($1.40 – $2.90 AUD) per drink.
Most people also tip hotel staff in the USA, including housekeeping staff, concierge, bellhops, and valet attendants. Much like servers in restaurants, this tip often goes towards supplementing a low wage to create a living wage.
What is a Fair Tip to Leave Hotel Staff in the USA?
A tip of between $1-$5 USD ($1.40-$7.40 AUD) is considered a fair tip to hotel staff. Remember, however, you’re unlikely to encounter housekeeping staff as regularly as other hotel staff, so it’s best to leave their tip in your hotel room for them to pick up.
Salons & Spas
It’s also common to tip hairstylists, manicurists, massage therapists, and anyone else providing a service within a salon or spa in the USA.
What is a Fair Tip to Leave Salon & Spa Staff in the USA?
A tip of between 15-20% of the total cost of your treatments is considered fair for salon and spa staff, although those working in upscale establishments may expect more.
Tipping in coffee shops is a little different, and although it isn’t considered mandatory as it is for other services, leaving some change in a tip jar for your barista (particularly following a complex order) is always appreciated.
What is a Fair Tip to Leave Coffee Shop Staff in the USA?
There’s no set rule here, really. You can tip as much or as little as you like in coffee shops, although most people will add a couple of dollar bills to the tip jars.
USA Tipping Etiquette: How to Give a Tip?
Leaving a tip in the USA can be done in several ways, but most people choose to leave their tip as cash as this is the most straightforward method. Tipping in cash allows you to thank your server in person as well, rather than wondering where the money from a card payment goes.
Tips are also usually best given in cash as some establishments may not pay their staff tips that have been added to a card payment. You can get US Dollar bills for tipping at excellent exchange rates here.
Are There Any Cases Where You Should Avoid Tipping in the USA?
As a general rule, tipping is expected and appreciated in most service industries. However, there are a couple of instances in which tipping may not be required.
Firstly, you aren’t expected to tip in fast food restaurants where counter service has been provided. However, if there is a tip jar and you feel as though you want to show your appreciation for the service you received, leaving a small tip is fine.
You also aren’t expected to tip for professional services, such as doctor’s offices, law firms, or accounting firms. It’s really only service industries that you only need to worry about tipping in.
Of course, you also don’t need to tip if you have received bad service from a restaurant, bar, hotel, salon, or anywhere else where tipping is commonplace.
Heading to the USA? Get the Best Rates of US Dollars at Crown Currency
Get ahead of the game and make sure you have enough money to tip during your trip to the USA by visiting Crown Currency. We offer the best rates of AUD to USD with no commission fees or hidden costs. Contact us at your nearest Crown Currency Exchange store today!