tipping in new york

For foreigners living in the United States, paying extra money at a restaurant, bar, or salon may feel like a strange custom. This strange custom is called “leaving a tip” and if you want to live in New York City, you will need to learn how to do it very quickly. The two big questions are:

• How much money should I tip?

• When do I need to leave a tip?

If you are worried about these questions, you are not the only person. Even many Americans aren’t sure about tipping etiquette. However, don’t worry. This article gives you the answers you need and more–so keep reading!

What is a tip?

If you are new to the United States, you may be wondering what tipping is. It is giving a small amount of extra money to people who provide you with a service. This includes people who work at restaurants, bars and hotels, or as taxi drivers and tour guides.

Why should I tip?

Tipping is not a law and you will not get in trouble with the police if you don’t do it. However, in the United States many people who work in the service industry, like waiters and taxi drivers, do not get a lot of money from their company when they work; the company expects the employees to get tips, too.

Let’s talk about a waiter. If you go to a nice restaurant and a waiter helps you, then you will be expected to give a tip. The waiter will work hard to make you happy because the restaurant owner only pays him a little money. If the waiter makes you happy, you will give a big tip. If the waiter makes you upset, you will give a small tip or no tip at all. What is important to understand is that some of the waiter’s salary comes from tips, so you are expected to tip if you are happy with the service.

How do I pay my tip?

Pay a bill with cash or credit card

If you want to pay your bill with a credit card you have two options:

1. There will be a line at the bottom of the bill that will say “tip” or “gratuity” (these two words mean the same thing). You will write the amount of the tip here. Then, you will add the amount above with the tip and write the total amount on the “total” below. Sign your name at the bottom and you have just paid the tip.

Tipping Guide

2. Even though you pay the bill with your credit card, you can leave a cash tip at the table. If you do this, make sure to draw a line in the “tip” space on the printed bill.

tipping with credit card

If you want to pay your bill with cash, then your tip will also be in cash. However, there are two ways you can give the tip to the server.

1. Put the cash tip on the table and pay your bill separately. Some people like to secure the tip by placing a clean cup or plate on top so that it doesn’t fall off the table.

2. If the server gives you the bill in a little black folder, you can place the cash tip with your payment for the bill. For example, if your dinner cost $16.50 with tax, you can put $20.00 with the restaurant bill and say, “Keep the change.” This means you paid the restaurant $16.50, and you paid the waiter $3.50.

tipping in america

Give a tip without a bill

Sometimes you will need to give a tip even if there is no bill. When people stay at a hotel or go to an airport they give tips if someone helps them carry their bags. People will also leave a tip under the pillow in their hotel room when the housekeeper comes in to make the bed. It is always a good idea to carry some small bills ($1 and $5 bills) with you so that you don’t feel uncomfortable when it is time to tip.

New York Tipping: What Should I Pay?

Below are the most common places where you are expected to tip and how much you should tip.

Restaurants and Bars

Servers and waiters: 15–20% of the bill

Note 1: You tip at restaurants where you are served at a table by a waiter. If you are ordering food at a counter, like Starbucks, or ordering takeout, like Dominos Pizza, you don’t need to leave a tip.

Note 2: If you go to a restaurant with a large group of people, the restaurant may make you tip even if you don’t want to. It is usually around 18% of the bill. In New York City they will call this tip a “service fee.” Remember this so that you don’t accidentally tip a second time.

Bartenders: $1–2 per drink or 15–20% of the bill

tipping a bartender


Bellhops and doormen: $1–2 per bag

Concierge: $1–5 when they help you or give good advice

Note: There is no need to tip just because they say, “hello.” Tip when they provide information or other services.

tipping at a hotel

Housekeeping: $3–5 per person per night


Taxi cabs: 15% of the total fare

tipping in manhattan


Tour guides: $2–5 per person in your party

Note: If you go on a tour, ask if the tip is already included in the bill before you pay.

tipping a tour guide

How much is a good tip?

The suggested amounts above are not the rule; they are only guidelines for tipping. Usually, the tip amount depends on what kind of service you are getting. For example, the tip for riding in a taxi is cheaper than a tip for riding in a limousine. It is also important to think about how good the service is. If the person providing the service does a good job, then they should get a bigger tip.

Just remember, if someone is providing you with a service and expects a tip, try to give a tip–even if the service is not very good. If this happens, it is better to give a small tip and then complain to the manager.

Now that you’re a pro at tipping, it’s time to put your knowledge to the test. Check out our article on great bars in Lower Manhattan to practice English.