Everything you need to know about tipping in the USA

Tipping! It can be an awkward and uncomfortable concept to adapt to when travelling in the USA. On our first trip, I remember being very confused about when, how much, and how to tip. Now, I find it easier but still uncomfortable. Australian culture makes it feel unnatural to give someone cash for serving or being friendly. Workplaces in the States, pay their workers very poorly and under minimum wage, so they make up their pay with tips and rely heavily on them.


How I work out how much to tip

One of my main worries was if I was tipping them enough. As a general rule, most people say to tip 10% for poor service, 15% for good service and 20% for excellent service.

I found it easy to simply round it up to the equal dollar. This isn’t always the full 15- 20% but it works for us and what I prefer to do. Not everyone will agree with this and tipping can be a sensitive subject if you don’t tip the full 20%. I say do what works for you.

There is a handy website and app that you can use when travelling which allows you to input the total bill amount and desired tip percentage, and it will calculate the tip. You can google ‘tipping app’ or ‘tipping calculator’ and select from plenty of options. I find them really helpful to use when we are away as a general guide.

If you are in a group of 6 or more, you’ll notice an automatic addition of an 18%-20% tip on the receipts. I find this slightly annoying considering you should be able to select how much you would like to tip based on the service provided. With a family of 6 (2 adults and 4 children), everywhere we eat has this automatic tip. You can find this listed on the bottom of the receipt and it is sometimes listed on the menu.


As a general guide of how much and who to tip

Bell hops or staff that help with your luggage – $1/$2 per bag

Valet Parking – $2/$5 given to the person retrieving the car

Restaurants – 15%/20% for satisfactory to excellent service

Food delivery – $2/$4

Bar attendants – $1 per drink

Housekeeping – $2/$3 per day

Note: Cruises will automatically add on tips to your cruise. This can be changed or removed by visiting guest services and requesting the change.

No need to tip 

Uber and Lyft

Fast food restaurants

Check in staff at a hotel


Is it optional?

Basically, no!  Everyone that provides you with a service will expect a tip and will stand there waiting until they receive it (slightly awkward lol). Out of all our USA travelling, there was only one situation where we left without tipping. Our waiter was extremely rude and slack. People say we should have tipped the 10% for poor service, but I was not willing to part with hard earned money to someone who was rude to my family.

It is helpful to remember this is a custom and way of life for people in the States, and a normal practice when receiving service and assistance.

I hope this post helps you understand the American way of tipping! Let me know if you have any tips to add to the post (see what I did there?).

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