Our Ultimate Tipping Guide Explains How Much to Leave in Every Situation

A beer mug is filled with money from tips.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

Tipping people who provide services — hairstylists, nail techs, movers, bartenders — is a common practice. It’s also something that brings out a lot of strong feelings.

Customers expected to leave the money often balk because they don’t like the idea that the extra payment is seemingly required. They argue that the expectation makes it almost meaningless as a token for a job well done. On the flip side, some service providers — especially restaurant waitstaff — depend on those tips to make a living wage.

There are not many financial topics that elicit such strong feelings as the idea of tipping. If you need proof, ask your Facebook friends their opinions on tipping. Expect lots of responses and maybe even a heated discussion.

Besides wondering why and if we have to tip, we also want to know how much to leave for all the people who provide different services. The Penny Hoarder’s ultimate guide to tipping is here to help.

Why Is Tipping a Thing in the U.S.?

Leaving tips in the United States has become standard and ubiquitous. We picked up tipping etiquette from European royalty in the 1800s, even though Europeans generally stopped leaving tips.

However it has become part of the system here, especially in the service industry. Restaurants and bars can charge less for their food and drink because they don’t have to pay service workers that much (except in a handful of states).

Tipping customs vary from place to place. Our tipping guidelines will help you know the standard tip amount for service, and how to calculate extra to thank someone for excellent service.

Understanding Tipping Etiquette

Tipping changed in the early days of the pandemic. As restaurants and other services scrambled to figure out how to survive, people tipped generously to try to help the businesses and workers make it through. Overall, expect to tip 15 to 20% for decent to good service. A 25% tip works for outstanding service. This has gone up a little over the last few decades.

You can tip on a credit card, with cash, or in some instances, through peer-to-peer sites such as Venmo. How you tip is up to you. Some businesses do tip sharing, when everyone gets a piece of the pie. Others require that their tipped employees tip the staff that helps them, such as the bartender tipping the barback.

Tipping can also be an investment in future service. If it is a place you frequent, being known as a pretty decent tipper is a great way to ensure ongoing good service.

Yes, weddings are expensive and you should add tipping to the budget. Check out our complete guide to tipping wedding vendors.

How to Calculate Tips

Some folks cherish the opportunity to do math in their head. If that’s not you, calculating the tip doesn’t have to be difficult. You can choose your tipping amounts on the pre-tax or total bill, or if you have a special deal, on the original price.

Ten percent of that is just moving the decimal point over one space to the left. So, a $20 bill would mean a $2 tip at 10%. Twenty percent is double that amount; that $2 tip becomes $4.  Fifteen percent is that amount and then half of it is added; $2 plus $1 so the tip is $3 on $20. And so on. Another reason why 20% is a great amount, easier math! Some people like to then round up to the nearest dollar, which is a nice gesture.

The Ultimate Tipping Guide

From restaurant servicers to nail technicians and tattoo artists, leaving a tip is an expected part of the experience. The following guide will help you understand how to decide how much to leave.

Hospitality

Almost everyone knows that tipping is a standard practice when going out to eat and drink. The people serving you are paid much less than the federal minimum wage. Always put a few dollars in the going out budget for tips. You don’t have to tip at fast food restaurants. Many restaurants have their servers and bartenders tip out other staff too. This means servers are not getting all of the amount left by patrons.

How Much to Tip Bartender

Per drink, depending on the drink: $1-$3. You’ll tip less for a bottle of Bud Light with a twist-off bottle cap than a Cranberry Sour with six ingredients and a floating island of sugared cranberries at the top. Making the cocktail was more work and expertise.

How Much to Tip at Restaurant

Sit down restaurants: 15-25%. This might be the most contested of tipping areas and one where the servers depend on tips to make up for low hourly wages. The level of personal service is high at restaurants where service is good — and even when it’s not so good.

How Much to Tip for Takeout (When You Pick Up)

Here is one area definitely changed by the pandemic. Many people used to not put anything in the tip jar when picking up takeout. As restaurants scrambled to stay open, takeout was often the only option and folks tipped generously. Take out involves a lot of the same prep work that eating in does, so go ahead and tip 5-10%.

How Much to Tip Food Delivery Driver

If you use a food delivery app, Glamour magazine suggests that you definitely tip if you want your food delivered quickly. Some drivers can see the tips ahead of time on the app and choose deliveries. You should anyway, since most drivers rely on tips to pay for their gas and vehicle wear and tear.

There could be a delivery charge on your order, but don’t assume that it goes to the driver (ask when ordering). You can tip $2-$4 for lower priced meals, then between 10-20% of the bill total for pricier meals. Tip on the higher end when the weather is bad!

Grocery delivery usually has a default delivery amount of 5% of the bill, or a minimum of a few dollars. You can change the amount or opt out.

How Much to Tip Pizza Delivery

Anyone bringing you delicious pizza should be generously rewarded! Basically plan on $2-$3 a pie, unless it is a big order and then more. Calculate 15-18% of the total bill.

How Much to Tip the Bathroom Attendant

For handing you a towel, tip 50 cents. For mending hems or watching your shopping bags while you do your business, give them $2-$3.

Personal Appearance and Care

Trips to salons or barber shops give us a chance to slow down and relax, with the excellent result of feeling better about how we look or feel. Enjoying spa services is a lovely treat. When you are done and feeling good, add a tip to the bill for those who helped you. They might only make tips for pay (especially in nail salons), and are paying rent for their space.

A woman gets her hair cut at the salon.
Getty Images

How Much to Tip Hairdresser

It is pretty standard to tip your hairdresser 15-20% when you are pleased with the results. That is the usual amount for almost all self-care services. If a few people worked with you, such as a hairwasher, then it is proper to throw a couple of extra dollars in at the end for everyone.

How Much to Tip Barber

The same as with a hairdresser. Tip the guy who gives you the expert fade or flat top 15-20% of the bill.

How Much to Tip at the Nail Salon

The technicians at the nail salons are doing all manner of pedicures and manicures, plus facials and waxings. The going rate for tipping is 15-20%.

How Much to Tip Facialist

That hourlong or more facial takes skill plus lots of emoluments and equipment. Leave 18-20% of the bill as a token for making your skin glow.

How Much to Tip Tattoo Artist

Typically people tip their tattoo artists 20%, but that can change with the complexity of the tattoo and quality of the experience.

Should You Tip Massage Therapists?

Tipping etiquette with Massage Therapists depends on location. If you are visiting a spa or getting a massage through your hotel, then it is proper to tip 20%.

Scott Elliott, a licensed massage therapist in Gulfport, Florida, says that tipping “is OK. But in a clinic setting it is not expected. (However) all welcome it!”

Travel

Include tip money in your travel plans. This tipping guide for travelers will help you whether you’re staying in a luxury hotel or one of our national parks. If you are traveling overseas, check to see tipping guidelines for the countries you are visiting. Always tip your tour guide!

How Much to Tip Rideshare Drivers

When various rideshare companies started, it was a cashless exchange. No longer! Tip drivers 10 to 20%, depending on how good the trip was; if they helped you with luggage; how long the trip is; and the cleanliness of the vehicle.

How Much to Tip Taxi Drivers

Tip your taxi driver the same as you would a rideshare: 10-20%.

How Much to Tip Hotel Housekeeping Staff

There are a couple of ways to tip housekeeping. If they are doing your room daily, then leave $1-$2 out on the dresser or by the bed for them. Or you can leave a tip at the end of your stay, equaling $1-$2 per day.

How Much to Tip Shuttle Driver

Either $5 for the trip or $1-$2 for each bag. Shuttle drivers taking you from airport terminals to car rental facilities or parking garages will usually help put your bags on and off the vehicle.

How Much to Tip Valet Parking

Between hotels and restaurants, especially in urban settings, self-parking parking is difficult. Pay the valet who parks your car and then runs for it when you’re down with your event $2 to $5.

How Much to Tip Bellhop

When you get to a hotel, there is often a bellhop who greets you, guides you to check-in and may carry your bags. If there’s no bag handling, tip the bellhop $1 to $2. If the bellhop delivers luggage to the hotel room, the tip should be $1-$2 per bag.

How Much to Tip Room Service

Check the bill to see if gratuity has already been added. A 15% gratuity is an appropriate tip.

How Much to Tip on a Cruise 

Cruise lines might have a service charge or automatic gratuities, to use the industry term, already added to the bill. As in other parts of the service industry, cruise line workers are not highly paid with the assumption that tips will make up the difference. Check your contract to see if tips are already included.

Even if they are, being generous to staff can help maximize the pleasure of your cruise. Overall, the 15-20% rule applies, especially to your room steward who leaves all those cute towel animals on your bed.

How Much to Tip Tour Guides

Tipping tour guides depends on a few factors. Private tours for a few people would elicit a 10-15% of the tour cost tip per day for the guide, and another 5-10% for the driver. Group tours where everyone is giving something would be 4-5% per person.

Miscellaneous

There are other people who provide services that you might wonder about how or why to tip. Here are a few to add to your list.

Two people move a heavy box up stairs.
Getty Images

How Much to Tip Movers

Your moving company probably hasn’t included gratuities in its budget proposal, but make sure you put the cash aside for it. Tipping isn’t required, but since it is hard work done for relatively low pay, it might be more surprising when people don’t tip.

Tipping movers has a few factors to keep in mind. Is this a short move or are you going a few states away? If you’re loading in one state and unloading in another, there is a good chance it is two different crews, and therefore two tips.

Did your humongous flat screen make it safely because it was carefully hand carried? Did they move a dozen or more boxes of hard-back books? Various sites suggest $4-$12 per mover per hour, or about 15% of the total bill.

If the movers worked in the rain, helped set up beds, or went above and beyond in other ways, go with the higher end of the range. You can also provide food and drinks to the movers if it is an all-day job. When it is a short move, easy and everything is packed up, then you can focus on the low end of the range.

You can tip the head person and have them distribute the tip, or you can give each person cash individually. Moving is an anxiety producing time, and you will be pleasantly surprised how a nice gesture to your movers makes the ordeal go more smoothly.

How Much to Tip Dog Groomer

A reasonable tip for the dog groomer is 15-20%. Other pet-related services, such as pet sitting and pet walking, don’t require tips unless the person has done a little extra. If your pet has special needs, or the person was able to help out at the last minute, a 15-20% tip might ensure they are available when you need them.

How Much to Tip House Cleaner

You depend on this person to keep your house dust- and smudge-free so tip them 15-20% of the regular bill. Dependable and thorough house cleaners are in big demand. Tip them enough so that they stay with you.

How Much to Tip Car Wash

Basic car wash and towel drying is $2-$5, and the tipping amount goes up as more services are added. Detailing definitely deserves more money, $10-$15. Car wash attendant pay is low, so the tips really matter to the workers. At some car washes, the tips are gathered in a communal container and then disseminated by the crew chief at the end of the shaft.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Tipping

We got our expert advice on modern tipping etiquette guides for tipping tips from various sources including Emily Post and interviews with different practitioners to get the truth about gratuities. Though there was a range in amounts, all the sites agree that an important part of the tipping interaction is remembering that you are showing gratitude and care by tipping.

Is 20% a Good Tip?

A general rule is that tipping 20% is usually the safest amount, indicating that you are a competent, generous person, and that you are satisfied with your service. If you had a great meal with wonderful service provided, 25% communicates your gratitude. A 15% tip indicates things were adequate, and less means that they weren't good.

Remember when calculating the tip, that there are things wait staff in restaurants have no control over. They may be out of your favorite dish, or only have a tiny table for your party. Opinions about those types of issues go to the manager.

What Do You Tip Your Hairdresser at Christmas?

Even though you have tipped through the year, it is thoughtful to add a bonus tip for Christmas or any of the end of the year holidays.

They are also a good time to offer a little thank you tip to people you generally don't tip throughout the year. Here is a quick guide to tipping these folks, if you appreciate what they do.

  • Personal trainer: cost of one service
  • Mail carrier: $20$
  • Newspaper delivery: $10-$30
  • Nanny: A week's pay
  • Housekeeper: Amount of one service
  • Doorman: $25-$100
  • UPS/Amazon/USPS delivery person: Usually prohibited from accepting tips, but a nice gift basket is good.
  • Home health aide: A week's pay
  • Dog walker/sitter/groomer: Amount of one service
  • Pool cleaner: Amount of one service
  • Teacher: A gift rather than cash.
  • Tutor: Amount of one service
  • Sanitation worker: $10-$30

How Should I Tip When Using a Coupon?

If you are using a coupon for a meal or service, base your tip on the amount the total cost would have been without special pricing.

Should You Tip If the Person is the Owner?

Traditionally people don't tip the owner of the business, even if they are directly providing the service. For example, most people are not expected to tip the owner of the salon when they do your hair. It isn't insulting if you do, and if it is a fairly new business, it is a lovely gesture.

What is the Tipping Etiquette for Wedding Planning?

We could write a whole tipping guide just for weddings because there are so many people involved in the event, including florists, caterers, photographers, hair and makeup experts, bartenders and more. A good rule of thumb when you are planning a wedding to include tip money for the vendors. When you are looking at the contracts, check the catering and bartending ones to see if there is a gratuity included, so you don't inadvertently double tip. Otherwise, tip 15-20%, to be split up among the workers.

Are There Other Ways to Tip Besides with Cash?

Yes! There might be a situation where workers can't accept tips. You can show your gratitude and appreciation by leaving a positive online review; writing a note to the owner or supervisor complementing their staff; baking cookies for your mechanic; or posting a nice note on social media.

The Penny Hoarder contributor JoEllen Schilke writes on lifestyle and culture topics. She is the former owner of a coffee shop in St. Petersburg, Florida, and has hosted an arts show on WMNF community radio for nearly 30 years.