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Tipping in America

Tipping statistics: Who are America's best and worst tippers?

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Person leaving a tip at a restaurant

Tipping is the lifeblood of the hospitality industry in the United States, with many Americans relying on tips as their main source of income. But as someone who grew up in Australia, where tipping is not the norm, moving to the United States presented a challenge at the end of every meal: How much do I tip?

You’d think that Google could answer such a simple question, but the variance in how much people tip is mind-boggling. There’s also the question of what amount you tip on — that is, before or after tax? (I’ve been told to just double the tax for a decent tip.) More confusing is how much to tip on drinks at a bar — for example, $1 for a beer but 15% to 20% on a cocktail.

Who came up with this, and are there any rules? To help you avoid living in the abstract, Finder looked into who tips best, who tips worst and common etiquette when tipping at a restaurant.

18.8 million Americans stiff their wait staff

If you work for tips, I’ve got both good and bad news. About two-fifths (43%) of the adult population tip their wait staff between 18% and 21.9% on average. A further 15% say they leave an average 22% to 26% of the bill as a gratuity, and another roughly 6% say they leave a tip of more than 26%. So, that’s 64% of the population being decent about acknowledging good service — or about 163 million Americans.

And yet, there’s still 36% of the population out there leaving less than 18%, representing about 91.5 million Americans. If you’re waiting tables, it means you’ve got about a 1 in 3 chance of providing service to someone that’s less than generous with their tipping to the tune of less than 18% of the bill.

Of those who tip under 18% on average, 17% say they leave between 14% and 17.9%, 10% say they drop 10% to 13.9% and nearly 2% saying they leave less than 10%. Remarkably, a little over 7% of American adults say they don’t tip at all — almost 19 million people.

Tip ranges% of Americans
0%7.35%
Less than 10%1.84%
10%-13.9%10.05%
14%–17.9%16.65%
18%–21.9%42.77%
22%–26%15.04%
More than 26%6.31%

Women tip more generously than men

If you’ve a choice between a table of men and a table of women, data suggests you should opt to serve the women, from whom you’re more likely to get a tip of 18% or more. Women are bigger tippers than men by a margin of almost 5 percentage points, with 66.29% of women saying that they tip 18% or more on average, compared to 61.87% of men who say the same.

You’re also less likely to get stiffed on the bill, with just over 5% of women saying they don’t leave a tip compared to 9.71% of men.

Tip rangesMenWomen
0%9.71%5.07%
Less than 10%1.87%1.80%
10%-13.9%9.36%10.71%
14%–17.9%17.19%16.12%
18%–21.9%39.77%45.66%
22%–26%15.32%14.77%
More than 26%6.78%5.86%

Which generation tips best?

You might see a group of 35- to 54-year-olds and assume that because they’re at the peak of their earning potential, they’re more likely to leave you a fat tip. It turns out, however, this group on average isn’t quite as generous. Of those who leave more than 18%, about 63% are between the ages of 45 to 54 and roughly 62% are ages 35 to 44.

This demographic is also most likely to leave you with bupkis, with a little more than 9% of 35- to 44-year-olds and 8% of 45- to 55-year-olds leaving no tip at all.

The best tippers? Those between the ages of 25 and 34. This age group leaves 18% or more on a check nearly 67% of the time. The next closest age group are those ages 55 to 64, which tip 18% or more some 65% of the time.

If you were to hedge your bets to avoid no tip at all, you’re better off taking the table of 55- to 64-year-olds, as only about 6% say they don’t ever leave a tip, versus 8% of 25- and 34-year-olds.

Age group10% tipLess than 10% tip10%-13.9% tip14%-17.9% tip18%-21.9% tip22%-26% tipMore than 26% tip
Ages 10-247.75%3.52%9.15%15.49%38.73%17.61%7.75%
Ages 25-348.25%1.65%9.24%14.19%45.21%15.51%5.94%
Ages 35-449.46%1.58%10.73%15.77%40.06%14.83%7.57%
Ages 45-548.36%2.17%13.00%13.93%39.32%14.24%8.98%
Ages 55-645.52%2.03%9.01%18.31%42.44%17.44%5.23%
Ages 65+5.11%0.96%8.63%21.41%48.88%11.82%3.19%

Which region tips the most?

From coast to coast, it’s the middle that tips the most, with the Midwest dispensing its tips with such largesse that some 67% say they leave more than 18% on a bill for service. This narrowly beats out those from the Northeast (66%) and the South 64%), with the West Coast claiming the worst tippers at 59%.

While the Northeast is a close second for biggest tippers, it’s also the region where you’re most likely to be left high and dry as a server, with 9% saying they never tip. The Midwest and West cost are also fairly high on the list at 8%, with only 6% of those from the South saying they habitually stiff their wait staff.

Tip rangesNortheastMidwestSouthWest
0%9.45%7.77%6.19%7.63%
Less than 10%1.49%1.52%2.48%1.36%
10%-13.9%8.96%8.71%10.06%12.53%
14%-17.9%13.93%15.15%17.34%19.07%
18%-21.9%47.76%41.29%42.72%42.23%
22%-26%11.94%19.70%13.78%12.26%

How to tip with a credit card

Leaving a gratuity with a credit card is as simple as dip and tip. Most card processing kiosks let you tap a button to easily tip up to 20% or add a custom amount, with restaurant receipts often including suggested tip percentages based on your bill right on the check.

Convenience aside, tipping with your credit card often counts toward your earned rewards. That means if you have a dining card that earns 5x points, a $20 tip will earn you an extra 100 points on top of the cost of the meal itself.

And of course, the less you touch physical cash, the fewer germs you’re exposed to. Most credit cards now offer contactless payments for an even more sanitary exchange of funds.

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