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Tips - cash or card in upscale places?

In the UK, it's usual to add the tip to a card payment, particularly in high end restaurants..

Is it the same in the US or is it more appropriate that I should leave cash on the table as I would in more casual places?

As a travelling Brit (shortly to visit Washington DC, Charleston and NYC) is there any other tipping "etiquette" I need to know about? Past trips to the US have not involved particularly fine dining places - but I know that the tip rate is higher than in the UK - around 15 - 20% (and at the upper end in upper end places)

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  1. surely it's the same thing worldwide, the server ALWAYS prefers tips in cash in any country and at any restaurant.

    5 Replies
    1. re: smartie

      Not true - I waited tables for years and it's no different to have tips in cash than on the card. You get the money for the tips on the cards at the end of the night just the same.

      What servers prefer is that you use the method that results in a larger tip!

      1. re: lupaglupa

        <You get the money for the tips on the cards at the end of the night just the same>

        not necessarily. depending on the organization the server has to wait up to a week or two. also some places take a percentage off the serever's credit card tips (aside from the normal tippool on sales).

        so if you have the cash on you, then great, leave that. but don't worry about it if you prefer to leave it on the card.

      2. re: smartie


        Not necessarily so. In many restaurants in Europe (including the UK), tips in the usual sense are not given at all. A percentage is simply added to the bill (check) as a "service charge". Staff then receive it as part of their salary. Good restaurant owners normally ensure all staff (not just wait staff) get a share of the charge.

        I appreciate the difference in the US, where wait staff can, I think, be paid less than the minimum wage. Doesnt happen in the UK - minimum wage is minimum wage..

        1. re: Brit on a Trip

          sorry Brit, I don't agree with you. I am a Londoner in Florida, been here 2 years and have worked in catering and restaurants in both countries. Service is not always added to a bill in England, and you can certainly choose to add in to your CC or pay it in cash. How a restaurant distributes it afterwards varies.

          Anyway you can also ask a restaurant to remove the service charge if you want to add more or none if the service was really bad.

          I always left a tip in England, usually 10 - 12 % and when I was a waitress years back was always left one.

          1. re: smartie

            Hi, smartie. Sorry you disagree - not sure with which bit, though. I said "many restaurants in Europe" add a service charge, not all. I think it's a great idea for the customer (as I'm sure you know, in France a service charge is always levied).


      3. There is no problem with leaving a tip on a credit card. The only difference to the server is that they have to report is as income for taxes, versus cash where the can fudge the numbers. You'll be fine if you tip in the 15-20% range.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ajs228

          Cash is changing in that it's being reported more and more with tip out amounts for the IRS. All tips are taxable income.

        2. jfood has NEVER left a cash tip when he can use his card for 100% of the total plus tip. That goes for US, South America, Europe, Mid-east, Asia, pretty worldwide acceptance.

          1. When charging the meal, my DH likes to leave a cash tip when he can (I just did that today, in fact). I think it's because he feels that the waiter will know right away what tips he got from the table rather than waiting till later... hmm, technically, this would only happen in places where we bring the bill up to the cashier... so I think his practice stems from when we first starting eating out (at Denny's, Baker's Square, etc.), and he has just continued doing it. In a regular restaurant, your server can see the tips since he/she is handling the bill as well.

            To answer your question, just do whatever is convenient for you.

            1. I always leave a tip on the card in restaurants, or for any service for that matter, unless I am asked specifically to tip in cash. In some low end operations and non-food services, the owner may balk at having to pay a card charge fee for tips and may even take it out of the total given to the server. I've had some servers come out and tell me that you can't tip on the card. It can vary from one to seven percent for some cards. In some places, the servers may just be trying to earn "non-reportable" income. However, in a business setting or other upscale environment, or even a typical chain restaurant, I would only leave a tip on the card. It is irritating to tip in cash, it makes a mess of your business records, and frankly, the server is not necessarily going to get as large of a tip because it depends on how much cash I have in hand. I think I am more generous with cards. BTW, has anyone noticed that Sonic Drive Ins don't allow tips on card purchases? I had to do a fund raiser for my daughter's team once, and if the customer paid with a card, there was often no tip left for the server at all.

              1. Card tip is fine. I tip on a card with I pay with a card, with one general exception:

                Sometimes I eat breakfast (and rarely another meal, but it's almost always breakfast) in a place where I am served at a table but pay at a front counter. Those places do allow for tips on the cards, but I feel weird leaving nothing on the table for the server. I'm sure they check if they are stiffed or not, but still. They're also places where the food is cheaper, so for a similar amount of work they get less in tips. So I tend to over tip there (often it's about 25%, but we're talking about leaving $4-5) and leave the cash on the table even when paying with a card.

                I have run into one place where they couldn't put a tip on the card. Literally, the type of credit card processing they used couldn't handle that. Essentially it's a restaurant but using a card processing setup that's for a store. They did have a sign up warning about that.

                1. As a server, it makes no difference to me. Cash is king, but at the end of a shift $ is $.

                  I personally don't care for it when I am left money on the table. I find it far nicer when it's placed back into the check presenter...

                  Nor do I particualry care for it when I am palmed money on the guest's way out. That being said, there have been numerous exceptions.

                  In a more casual establishment, yes, leaving cash on the table is appropriate & often your only option. (i.e. when you pay a cashier)

                  I think your tips should be based more on service than on high or low end establishments. Just my opinion.

                  Have a great time on the E. Coast & enjoy!

                  1. OK. Many thanks to all - you've been a reassurance.

                    To summarise - in upscale places, card is fine but cash might be finer. If cash, leaving it in the check presenter would be nice, rather than on the table (which is what I'd do in the UK).


                    1. as i read through posts on this site and others, the topic of tips is talked about so much i feel as if there should actually be something complicated about the process. as for this thread, i thought i would clear the air - having worked in restaurants in nyc , from casual to very high end, the concept of how it works seems to be a mystery to some - so please allow me to clarify.
                      it is not rude to leave cash. ever. it may be rude to leave thirty singles, or to leave it on the table sitting in a pool of sauce or maple syrup or the like, but it is never rude to leave cash (cash that is, not change - that tends to cross over into rudeness, but that's another topic).
                      also, some waiters pool tips. some do not. some get paid cash. some get paid on a check, and some get both. some get paid every night upon ending their shift (in which case, if they get paid in cash, their credit tips get paid to them that way), and some have to wait a week. usually no longer than a week. usually.
                      knowing this, we have to realize, that cash is always better for the waiter. ALWAYS. if it's in cash, they will either not claim it at all, or have the luxury of claiming a certain percentage less than the actual amount. either way, it's better. if the tip is on a credit card, there is a record of it. somewhere and that doesn't afford the kind of luxury that cash (which might be $15, might be $18, $might be $25) does. entire restaurant will get audited - every waiter, every bus boy, and every record will have to be checked. also, every restaurant keeps record (because credit cards keep them) and they are in computers - only few restaurants, the ones that don't take credit cards, don't keep strict acurate records - but obviously, that doesn't apply here either. you will get your cash, before you get your check in 90% of the places. in the odd case that cash appears on your paycheck, it is all but even with getting a credit tip - but never better.
                      also, just to note, the term "palm" refers to money "palmed to you" which would be in addition to the tip left on the table. palms also, are NEVER a bad thing. and again, some are shared, some are kept...

                      1. In the US, it is okay to place the tip on your credit card and/or leave cash for higher end restaurants. The same usually applies to moderately priced restaurants but I’ve been in many that request the tip be left in cash. I believe this might apply to smaller family-owned places where they don’t want to deal with disbursing tips or possibly to not hike up the total percentage the credit card companies take.

                        Every time I have left a cash tip, the server has given me a big smile. There just seems to be more immediate gratification in the transaction. Call me crazy but I prefer leaving a cash tip - whether it’s an expensive restaurant or moderately priced. Psychologically, when I get my credit card bills the total amount is lower. Less to pay the piper.