This post explains tipping (gratuities) for services in New York City.
We explain why tipping is expected, plus who to tip, how much to tip, and advice to make the tipping practice easy for you.
Let's get started!
- Why Tipping is Expected
- Who (and How Much) to Tip
- Some "Tips" on Tipping
- Tourist Discount Passes
- Hop-On-Hop-Off Buses
- Things to Do in NYC
WHY TIPPING IS EXPECTED
Tipping is the customary act of giving additional money (or gratuity) to someone who has provided a service, for example, waitstaff in bars and restaurants, concierges, maids and luggage handlers in hotels, and taxis drivers.
We know that in many parts of the world, good service is expected without having to pay more for it. So why is it customary to tip for services you use?
The answer is simple. Many jobs, including being a food server or bartender, are not paid very well.
In fact, some restaurants may pay their staff below minimum wage, with the understanding that they will make up the difference with cash tips.
Shockingly, the federal minimum wage (meaning across the 50 states in America) for restaurant and bar workers is just $2.13 an hour!
Individual states can require a higher minimum wage for service industry jobs, but in New York, such jobs are allowed to pay as little as $7.50.
Tips are therefore the only way that such employees are able to make a liveable wage.
Here are some of the most common occupations that you will encounter that rely on tips, along with the standard tipping amount for each:
It is standard to leave 15% of the total fare, more if they help you with bags. You are free to leave more if you had a great ride!
You can now pay taxis with credit or debit cards as well as cash.
You can leave a tip on your card when paying with one. Cash tips are appreciated though.
If you take an Uber or Lyft, check their policy on tips. See our post on how to use Uber in NYC.
Waitstaff - 15% minimum, 20% or more for attentive or exceptional service, 10% if service was less than satisfactory.
Bartenders - 15% to 20% of your total bill, or at least $1 per beverage.
If you are buying a "round", say 4 or 5 drinks at a time, $2-$3 for the entire order is sufficient.
Baristas - It is not expected to tip for that triple-espresso mochaccino with whipped cream!
But if you see a tip jar, it's nice to leave some coins.
Room Service - 15% of the total bill, but make sure it is not already included in the bill.
Concierge - $1-$5 for useful information and time spent assisting you. You can also consider leaving one large tip at the end of your stay.
Bellhop or Doorman - $2 minimum with $1 for each additional bag.
Housekeeping - $3 to $5 per night for each person staying in the room.
Even if you are not staying at a hotel, but are looking for a place to stow your luggage for a short time, a small tip of $5-$10 at a hotel front desk could be the difference between a yes or no.
Fortunately, with so many luggage storage companies opening in the United States, you need not ask at a hotel! Find out more from our post on New York Luggage Storage.
Most tour companies pay their guides an hourly or per tour salary. But the guides for Free Tours by Foot do not receive any compensation other than tips from guests.
This guarantees that your guide will be working hard to give you the best tour experience possible.
We do realize that travelers are on a budget. That is why our tours are offered on a pay-what-you-like basis.
It is free to join our tours (but please make a reservation). At the end of a tour, you decide what your experience was worth.
The beauty of our pay-what-you-like system is that you can factor in your budget, the length of the tour, and the quality of the tour when deciding how much to tip, or if to tip at all.
Guests of Free Tours by Foot tours tip, on average, a minimum of $5-$7 dollars per person.
You can certainly tip more if you have a fantastic time. We think you will!
Carry $1 bills
Have small bills handy for when you are ready to tip.
If you only have large bills, tipping gets complicated. It's awkward to ask for the large bill to be broken so that you can leave a few dollars.
Tipping for large groups
Many restaurants include the tip for parties of 6 or more, so check your bill.
Avoid double tipping
Be sure to read your bill at restaurants before you leave gratuities, especially if you are in a tourist district.
Many restaurants are already prepared for tourists who leave insufficient gratuities and automatically add in an 18% service charge. Look for the words "Service Included" for example.