Breaking News

Money Experts Weigh In On The New Tipping Culture

Money Experts Weigh In On The New Tipping Culture

Just last week, a CBS News article asked the question many Americans confined to murmurs within their inner circles: “Are tip requests getting out of hand?”

While the pandemic brought about a new tipping culture to support service workers and businesses early on, there seems to be a more notable shift with the emergence of digital kiosks at checkouts prompting customers to tip on to-go coffees, takeout orders and other transactions previously free from tipping culture.

But what was once a question of etiquette is becoming for many Americans a question of affordability. Inflation still lingers, and just last month nearly two-thirds of Americans reported they’re already living paycheck to paycheck, according to a report from PYMNTS and LendingClub

Ultimately, how much you decide to tip depends on your own personal finances, but to offer a guideline, CNBC Select asked financial professionals their advice. Below, they weigh in on today’s tipping culture, who gets a gratuity and how much.

Subscribe to the Select Newsletter!

Our best selections in your inbox. Shopping recommendations that help upgrade your life, delivered weekly. Sign up here.

“It helps to understand how people are paid”

Dr. Jaime Peters, assistant dean and assistant professor of finance at Maryville University, has a quick solution for those who need help determining when and if it is appropriate to tip: “It helps to understand how people are paid,” she says.

In other words, your waiter at a restaurant is not paid the same minimum wage as a cashier at a grocery store or coffee shop. “The lower hourly rate is justified by the opportunity for the waitstaff to earn generous tips, which should — theoretically — bring their wages to or above the state’s minimum wage,” Dr. Peters explains.

Leaving a gratuity for your waiter at a restaurant has long been standard practice for this very reason. Other situations where tipping is standard include taking a cab ride or getting a service done at a salon. This differs, however, when you think about the kiosk at Starbucks now asking you to leave a tip on your morning coffee.

What to tip on the kiosk at checkout

“One situation in which you should not be compelled to tip relates back to the automated kiosk,” Vincent Birardi, a CFP and wealth advisor at Halbert Hargrove, says, adding that there shouldn’t be this pressure on customers.

Examples of this situation include ordering a to-go coffee or picking up a takeout order. “In this case, 20{797b2db22838fb4c5c6528cb4bf0d5060811ff68c73c9b00453f5f3f4ad9306b} is not the new minimum,” Dr. Peters says. If you have excellent or extremely fast service and want to leave something, consider adding a few dollars to the tip jar. “Some suggest that 10{797b2db22838fb4c5c6528cb4bf0d5060811ff68c73c9b00453f5f3f4ad9306b} is a good amount, but others say $1 or $2 is reasonable for good service,” she adds.

Vanessa Martinez, a wealth management professional and co-founder of Em-Powered Network, offers a good tip for those who want a quick, affordable solution when ordering a coffee or picking up takeout: “A simple roundup to the dollar is sufficient,” she says.

Who else gets a gratuity and how much?

Waitstaff, taxi drivers and salon workers aren’t the only workers traditionally tipped. Dr. Peters adds that tipped employees may also include most front-of-house restaurant employees, bellhops, parking attendants, airport service workers and food delivery workers. “[Customers] should consider each one of them an independent contractor that [they] are hiring for the moment,” she explains.

Dr. Peters and Birardi both agree that a 20{797b2db22838fb4c5c6528cb4bf0d5060811ff68c73c9b00453f5f3f4ad9306b} tip is the minimum appropriate for the standard tipped workers and that larger tips (more than 20{797b2db22838fb4c5c6528cb4bf0d5060811ff68c73c9b00453f5f3f4ad9306b}) should be done to recognize excellent customer service.

In a world where prices for everything are still generally high, however, you may feel you can’t afford the standard 20{797b2db22838fb4c5c6528cb4bf0d5060811ff68c73c9b00453f5f3f4ad9306b} for workers relying on tips. In that case, Birardi urges you to give as much as you can.

“You can always decide to tip a little more or less based on your financial situation and your appreciation for the service provided,” Birardi says. “The thought still counts the most.”

For industries that are not reliant on tips, such as car services (think routine oil change) or a visit from a handyman, Birardi suggests that tipping is optional, “but you can tip 10{797b2db22838fb4c5c6528cb4bf0d5060811ff68c73c9b00453f5f3f4ad9306b} to 20{797b2db22838fb4c5c6528cb4bf0d5060811ff68c73c9b00453f5f3f4ad9306b} if you felt they went above and beyond with their service.” Dr. Peters agrees that this range is appropriate for good service.

For cash-strapped consumers, Martinez suggests an alternative way to show appreciation for an all-day job at your home from a handyman or movers is picking up a pizza or some sandwiches for their lunch if easier on the wallet.

Check out these financial products that make tipping easier — and more rewarding

For those services that request cash tips, make sure you have a debit card that gives you free access to a wide network of ATMs so you can withdraw on the go at no cost.

With the Discover Cashback Debit Account, cardholders get free access to 60,000+ Allpoint® and MoneyPass® ATMs. The Discover debit card is also one of the few that offers rewards and has no annual fee. The 1{797b2db22838fb4c5c6528cb4bf0d5060811ff68c73c9b00453f5f3f4ad9306b} cash-back rate is relatively modest, but cardholders can still earn rewards on up to $3,000 worth of purchases each month — that’s up to $30 in rewards monthly.

Discover Cashback Debit Account

Discover Bank is a Member FDIC.

  • Monthly maintenance fee

  • Minimum deposit to open

  • Minimum balance

  • Rewards

    1{797b2db22838fb4c5c6528cb4bf0d5060811ff68c73c9b00453f5f3f4ad9306b} cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month

  • Free ATM network

    60,000+ Allpoint® and MoneyPass® ATMs

  • ATM fee reimbursement

  • Overdraft fee

  • Mobile check deposit

Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card

Information about the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

  • Rewards

    4{797b2db22838fb4c5c6528cb4bf0d5060811ff68c73c9b00453f5f3f4ad9306b} cash back on dining and entertainment, 4{797b2db22838fb4c5c6528cb4bf0d5060811ff68c73c9b00453f5f3f4ad9306b} on eligible streaming services, 3{797b2db22838fb4c5c6528cb4bf0d5060811ff68c73c9b00453f5f3f4ad9306b} at grocery stores and 1{797b2db22838fb4c5c6528cb4bf0d5060811ff68c73c9b00453f5f3f4ad9306b} on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn a one-time $300 cash bonus once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    3{797b2db22838fb4c5c6528cb4bf0d5060811ff68c73c9b00453f5f3f4ad9306b} for promotional APR offers; none for balances transferred at regular APR

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

And when it comes to using delivery services, consider a card that gives cardholders money they can use to tip delivery workers.

The American Express® Gold Card, for example, offers up to $120 in annual dining credit ($10 a month) on Grubhub (including Seamless), among other participating partners. And many Chase cardholders (including most co-branded ones) get a complimentary one-year DoorDash DashPass membership. DashPass members enjoy unlimited $0 delivery fees and reduced service fees on orders more than $12 from thousands of participating restaurants, grocery and convenience stores nationwide — helping to offset your tips.

American Express® Gold Card

On the American Express secure site

  • Rewards

    4X Membership Rewards® points at Restaurants (plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.) and at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X), 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines or on, 1X points on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases within the first 6 months of card membership

  • Annual fee

  • Intro APR

  • Regular APR

  • Balance transfer fee

  • Foreign transaction fee

  • Credit needed

Bottom line

The three financial professionals we spoke to for this article generally shared the same consensus about who gets a gratuity and how much. While it seems that 20{797b2db22838fb4c5c6528cb4bf0d5060811ff68c73c9b00453f5f3f4ad9306b} is still custom for standard tipped workers — and more if you are a frequent customer or receive excellent service — you shouldn’t feel pressured to tip when prompted the next time by a digital kiosk at checkout.

And at the end of the day, tip what you can depending on your own finances.

Catch up on Select’s in-depth coverage of personal financetech and toolswellness and more, and follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, click here.  

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.