Tipping 101: How Much to Tip in Every Situation

Finally, your "who, when, and how much" to tip questions, answered.

01_Tips_Tipping_101istock/studiocasper

Tipping is arguably the most stressful part of eating out (besides actually choosing a restaurant). There are no set rules to tell you exactly how much to tip your server, so you’re left guessing how to convert service quality into cash. Plus, figuring out tips for other services, like travel or beauty treatments, is just as confusing. Even more confusing? Figuring out tipping in other countries while you’re traveling.

Luckily, we got you covered. We’ve compiled the best tips on tipping from experienced etiquette experts. Here’s the low-down on who, when, and how much to tip.

How much to tip for dining and take-out:

Wait staff: 10 percent for mediocre service; 15 percent for good service; 20 percent or more for excellent service, according to Maryanne Parker, owner of Manor of Manners, a company for business, social, and youth etiquette in San Diego.

Bartender: $2 per drink (minimum) at high volume bars, says Parker; 10-15 percent of the bar bill at a cocktail bar, advises Jodi Smith of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting.

Take-out (whoever prepares your to-go order): No tip necessary, especially for counter service “like a doughnut shop or deli,” says Smith. If it’s a “complicated or large order, 5 percent is a lovely gesture,” Smith advises.

Delivery driver: 10-15 percent or $2-5 for the person who delivers pizza or other food, says Parker; 20 percent if the weather is bad; Parker also advises tipping $2-3 if someone helps you with groceries outside the store and increasing this tip for home grocery deliveries to match your regular food delivery tip.

Barista: $1 per coffee, advises April Masini, relationship and etiquette expert; “For a coffee drink that requires them to make an artistic leaf in your cappuccino, with hot milk? Two dollars. If you have a complicated order, two dollars,” says Masini.

How much to tip for hospitality:

Hotel Housekeeper: $2-5 per night in a hotel, says Parker and Smith. The tip should be left “daily near the pillow on the unmade bed,” as “housekeepers work irregular schedules” and “if you are staying a week and tip on the final day, someone who just came on shift could be benefiting and the person who had been cleaning your room for six days in a row would receive nothing,” says Smith. It’s also helpful to leave the note with the cash so the housekeeper knows it’s a tip, and make sure to read up fully on how much you should tip a hotel’s housekeeping staff.

Home Housekeeper: $5-10 for a few hours of light housekeeping in studio apartments, says Masini. “If you have a large home, and the work took longer, double that tip,” Masini advises. “If you have someone regularly, you can tip a little less, and give them a Christmas present once a year that shows your gratitude,” adds Masini. It is not necessary to tip housekeepers who work for themselves.

Taxi driver: 15 percent is standard for taxis, says Parker; 15-20 percent for rides through an app, informs Smith.

Valet parking: $2-5 upfront, advises Parker. If you have a “nicer car” a bigger tip will ensure that your car is well cared for, she adds.

Doorman: at least $5 dollars for hailing a cab, suggests Smith. However, depending on how much work they do for you and whether it is raining, you can tip your doorman anywhere between $5-20. If you live in an apartment building with the same doorman year-round, Parker advises giving an annual $75-100 tip around the holidays.

Bellhop: $2-3 per bag, or $5 for room delivery, advises Parker.

Coatroom attendant: $3-5 per coat, Smith suggests; more if you also check hats, umbrellas, or bags.

How much to tip at a salon/spa:

Hairstylist/barber: 20 percent is a standard tip for your hairstylist or barber and $5-10 is appropriate for the assistant if they give you a really good hair wash or scalp massage, says Smith. It is also good etiquette to tip the salon owner “the equivalent of one visit as your end of year gift,” she advises.

Manicurist: 18-20 percent, advises Smith.

Spa services (waxing, massage, etc.): 20 percent, advises Masini.

Other tips on tipping:

  • Before you tip, check if gratuity has already been added to your bill.
  • Calculate how much to tip based on original prices, even if it’s happy hour or your order has a discount.
  • If you want to become the beloved regular at your bar, tip bartenders generously (50 percent). For the same title at a coffee joint, put $5 straight into the tip jar. Being friendly and starting conversations will also get you remembered, and getting on the employees’ good side could get you a free drink in the future.
  • Don’t leave your tip out in the open. Give it to the server directly, put it in the holder the check came in, or use a credit card.
  • If people can’t or won’t accept tips, still give them a handshake and a sincere “Thank you.” Now, these are just general guidelines for tipping—you’ll want to know the proper tipping etiquette when it comes to the holidays and special occasions, too.