Leaving a tip on a touchpad screen.
Illustration: Stephen Cheetham

For starters, here’s a simple rule for restaurant tipping: Leave 15 to 20 percent of the pretax total of your bill. Don’t dip below 15 percent unless the service has been abysmal—and never skip a tip. (If a server has been rude or offensive, speak to the manager.)

More on Tipping

Because 20 percent is what most people leave, you might want to aim for that. It’s easy to calculate in places (Washington, D.C., for example) where the tax is 10 percent. Just double the tax and round up. (If tax on a $47 tab is $4.70, your tip should be $10). Otherwise, simply divide the total by 10 ($47 divided by 10 equals $4.70—move the decimal point one place to the left), double that, and round up.

If you’re truly math-challenged, the calculator on your smartphone should do the trick: Simply multiply the pretax total by 0.15 or 0.2 and voilà, your tip appears.

And contrary to what you may have heard, alcohol should be tipped at the same rate as food, unless you’re knocking back $1,000 bottles, in which case you could figure 10 percent on those. But as a general rule, tip on the total cost of the meal, drinks included.

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Where things get dicey is a group dinner at which everyone eats and drinks differently. Spare yourself the tedious “So I just had the mushroom appetizer and tap water, and Bill had two martinis and the prime rib . . ." conversations that always end with someone feeling put out. The apps at right let you split the tab and tip with ease and accuracy by allowing you to assign certain dinner-tab items to certain diners, or keep track of who owes what. But read the privacy and terms-of-use disclosures before using these tools to make sure you’re comfortable with the kind and amount of information they collect.

Tab: free, for Android and iOS.

Settle Up: $1.99, for Android and iOS. (It works with foreign currencies, so it’s a good choice for international travel.)

Plates by Splitwise: free, for iOS.

Your One-Stop-Shopping Tip Guide

We asked etiquette experts—Diane Gottsman, author of “Modern Etiquette for a Better Life” (Page Street Publishing, 2017), and consultant Julia Esteve Boyd—to recommend which service providers to tip, and the amount. These suggested tips represent their combined recommendation.

10 to 25 percent of the bill, depending on service.
$1 to $2 per drink or 15 percent of the total tab.
Barber or
10 to 20 of the cost of the service (even if he or she is the owner).
Shampooer at Salon
$2 to $5.
10 to 20 percent of service charge.
Masseur or Masseuse
$1 to 10 to 20 percent of service charge.
Taxi, Limo, or Ride-Hailing Service (e.g., Lyft or Uber) Driver
10 to 20 percent of fare.
Food Delivery Person
20 percent of entire bill or $3 to $5, whichever is higher.
Restroom Attendant
$1 to $2.
Coat Checker
$1 to $2 per coat.
Furniture Movers
5 to 10 percent of cost or $10 to $20 per person. 
Furniture or Appliance Delivery People
$5 to $20 per person (though check to see if it’s already included).
Full-Service Gas-Station Attendant
$2 to $3, but only if there’s a choice between self- and full-service.
$1 to $3.
Parking-Lot Attendant Who Brings You Your Car
$1 to $2 (or weekly equivalent when parking daily).
Valet Parking Attendant
$1 to $5.
Car Washer
$2 to $5.
Airport Skycap or Porter
$1 to $3 per bag for multiple bags but up to $5 for a single bag.
Hotel Housekeeper
$3 to $5 per day. (Tip daily because housekeepers vary from day to day; leave tip with a note that says, “For Housekeeping.”).
Hotel Bellhop
$1 to $2 per bag for multiple bags or up to $5 for single bag.
Hotel Concierge
$5 to $10 for theater tickets or dinner reservations; $20-plus for special services. No tip for standard services (e.g., directions).
Hotel Doorman
$2 to $5 for hailing a taxi, helping with bags, etc.
Hotel Room Service
10 to 20 percent if gratuity has not been included in the bill (check carefully). No additional tip necessary for tray pickup.
Tour Guide
15 to 20 percent of tour’s cost.

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the February 2019 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.