Traveler’s Guide to Tipping in the United States

So you’re taking a trip to the United States for vacation, business, school, or even the Junior Summer Vacation Study Program hosted by Access to Language Studies and you may have heard that you should tip just about everyone that you come in contact with. 

Well, you probably heard pretty correctly then. Visitors that come to the US are often caught off guard when it comes to tipping. It is hard to know if you are supposed to in a situation, and how much you should leave as a tip. This guide will take you through everything you need to know about tipping in the United States.

1. A 20% tip is the industry standard at restaurants/cafes/bars

When eating out at any kind of place that serves your food or drinks directly to your table like a restaurant, a 20% tip is customary and expected. If you are budgeting out meals for your trip, add an extra 20% on top of your budget because you will need to leave a tip. 

Be warned that some, not all, places will add an automatic gratuity to your bill and it will typically be around 18-20%. It is usually not expected to leave more of a tip after the automatic gratuity, but feel free to leave more if you thought the service was above and beyond.

2. Do you need to tip for fast food or your morning coffee?

You should never tip for fast food in the United States. It is not ever necessary and can even get the employee in trouble. Most fast-food restaurants have company policies that do not allow their employees to take tips. 

When you are getting your morning coffee from the local coffee shop, they will sometimes have a tip jar. It is not ever expected to leave a tip, but if you are feeling generous then feel free to leave your change or a dollar or two in the jar.

3. Are you planning on getting a haircut or styling on your trip?

If you are planning on getting a going to a barbershop or hair salon during your trip expect to leave a generous tip. It is common practice to leave a 20-25% tip, or even more for a haircut. Most barbers and hairstylists make most of their money from tips throughout the day.

4. Cash is king

Cash is typically preferred as a tip in any situation as that is money that they can take home at the end of the day and not have to wait for their paycheck. Do not avoid tipping if you don’t have cash, tipping from your card is just as appreciated.

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