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Paying with credit card: Should I tip in cash?

I'm never sure about this, so I'm asking the advice of wait staff and/or restaurant owners...

Say my tab is $100, and I'm going to tip $20 on it. I'm paying with a credit card, but I have cash for the tip.

Is it better if I...

(A) Pay the entire $120 with the credit card.

(B) Put $110 on the credit card, and leave a $10 bill separately.

(C) Pay the $100 on the credit card, and leave a $20 bill separately.

Or does it make no difference to you at all?


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  1. AFAIK, cash tip would be preferred. At least that's what I do at one of our regular places, and the bartender def prefers that over putting the whole thing on the card.

    I'm having a bit of trouble understanding option B, tho. Why would you split the tip between cash and CC?

    1. Some restaurants charge servers the credit card fee on tips left on CC, so I try to leave cash tip whenever I can.

      1 Reply
      1. re: joonjoon

        i think that depends on which state you're in. in most states its against the law for an employer to touch any part of an employees tip even in the case of a credit card fee.

        1. I put everything on the credit card. I carry virtually no cash.

          1. Always leave tips in cash. Don't have to wait for the end of the week or month to get it. Also much harder for the house to deduct "handling fees" and "taxes".

            Cynical little sod, aren't I.

            1 Reply
            1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

              But easier for them to be forgotten come tax time

            2. I tip on the credit card. When I waited tables (at a couple of different chain restaurants) I always got my credit card tips when cashing out at the end of every shift. I never had to wait until the end of the week or got charged a fee by the restaurant. Of course, that was over 20 years ago. I am not sure what the deal is these days.

              1. (D) Ideally pay the entire thing cash and make both the house and the server happy!

                If not then (C) for sure! And yes it make a big difference, it truly does.

                9 Replies
                1. re: jrvedivici

                  Yes, (D) will make the house happy, but likely not the IRS.

                  I have to agree with nocharge, cash, although prefered by waitstaff and encouraged by a number of articles I've read, has some serious issues attached to it. Not that I don't use cash from time to time.

                  1. re: mikie

                    One could also play devils advocate asking if American's continued to reliance on credit card's is really the best thing. Per capita/household credit card balances are still very near record highs (although off their highs) and the interest rate's and charges which can easily be considered usury.

                    I myself do not have any credit cards in my wallet, I have 1 open account for "emergencies" or things like car rentals etc. I use 100% cash or debit card for all my purchases, does that mean I'm endorsing tax fraud?

                    There are many reasons to use cash over credit that go far beyond the potential for tax fraud.

                    Playing devils advocate of course.

                    1. re: jrvedivici

                      I will see your devil's advocate and raise you. We get cash pack and pay off our balances every month. Between my husband and me, we get $2000+/year cash back and pay no interest.

                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                        Holy shit that's like over six figures you're putting on your credit cards each year...

                        1. re: joonjoon

                          1)my family's health insurance used to be charged directly to my Capital One credit card every month.
                          2) my dentist takes credit.

                          not hard to get large monthly balances. i get 1 1/2 percent cash back on these things

                          get 3% cash back on gasoline (more than pays for the annual fee for the american express card at costco.)
                          since i only buy gasoline from costco, i have to have this card.
                          i've never paid a finance fee nor interest.

                          1. re: joonjoon

                            We put everything possible on our credit cards. Love that $$$$ back.

                            1. re: Janet from Richmond

                              Love my Costco rebate.
                              We also have a card for our medical/dental.

                              Cash is a dinosaur. Retail establishments and restaurants have to find ways to keep up with the changing times.

                              Sure, I still tip in cash when I have it on me; nails, hair salon and restaurants, in that order.

                            2. re: joonjoon

                              We put everything in our lives that we can on our American Express, from cable and cell phone bills, subscriptions, health costs, and everything we purchase. It adds up, it's not all discretionary. And we get extra warranties, travel insurance, assistance with disputes about purchases, etc.
                              And reward points for buying what we would have anyway, never pay interest pay it off each month.

                              We use cash if we have it on us, cc if we don't. I always opt for cash when I can.

                          2. re: jrvedivici

                            I see your point and agree, credit card debt is all but out of hand. That's still not illegal, where tax evasion is.

                            I've often played with the idea of cash, but some things just work out easier with a credit card or can't be conducted by cash at all. Take internet purchases for example, hard to do with cash, reserving a hotel room, and some don't take debit cards for reservations. You also get some protection when using a credit card, depending on the type of card you use.

                            Obviously not all cash transactions are an attempt at fraud or tax evasion, but one doesn't have to look very far to find examples. When I lived in NY there was a very popular pizza place not far from my house. I knew someone that sold the owners some furnature and delivered it to their house. The wife of the owner was pulling 10s and 20s out of lamp bases and just about anyother place she could stash cash. I'm not saying this was illegal, but it certianly has the appearance that they were cooking more than just pizza in those ovens. (Books perhaps.) Restaurants and bars are difficult to monitor, while retail is relatively easy, so cash at Nordstroms for shoes doesn't have the same difficult to trace trail as anchovies on pizza.

                      2. To quote myself from another thread on the same topic:

                        I have some friends that feel "sophisticated" because they leave their tip in cash eschewing possible airline miles on their credit cards. I usually ask them questions about why they do so (and feel sophisticated about it):

                        1. Is it because you want to encourage tax evasion? That would make you a proud, upstanding citizen, wouldn't it?

                        2. Is it because you would like to tempt someone not to tip out properly? Well, that idea should certainly make you proud.

                        3. Is it because you would rather have that cocktail waitress spend more money on doing coke and less money on Social Security taxes possibly hurting her when she gets old? Well, that's a good deed!

                        BTW, in the state where I live (California), it's illegal for restaurants to deduct credit card charges on tips.

                        15 Replies
                        1. re: nocharge

                          Boy am I glad I don't live in California. I could come up with at least 3 reasons, I think.

                            1. re: monavano

                              Surprisingly, yes. The irony is that one of them is a German guy who constantly complains about the German economic bailout of Greece because the Greeks are tax cheats as he sees it. Yet, he would pay his tip in cash rather than leaving it on his AMEX Black Card just because he thinks that's what a "sophisticated" diner is supposed to do. He is a nice enough guy not to take offense when I tell him that he is a total idiot.

                              1. re: nocharge

                                OMG, a Black Card, too. Wow!
                                Oh well, we all have our strategies for getting along in life. Nice that you're friends.

                            2. re: nocharge

                              Here is yet another reason for leaving the tip on your credit card. For last night's dinner, I left a $1000 tip.Tipping in cash would have been a stretch based on the amount of cash I normally carry in my wallet. I think the server was quite happy even though it was on a credit card since it was more than 100 percent -- the restaurant comped us a lot of stuff. In fact, I think the server was happier than she would have been had I been some unabridged, total idiot leaving 15 percent in cash and feeling "sophisticated" because the tip was in cash.

                                1. re: nocharge

                                  You left a $1000 tip? I imagine you tip 20%?

                                  1. re: linguafood

                                    No, that was over 100 percent. But like I said, the restaurant did us a lot of favors so a really good tip was perfectly "decorum". And I'm sure I'll get treated well the next time I go back there.

                                    1. re: nocharge

                                      Well, in that case I'm perhaps less surprised about your worries about waiters "stiffing the country by evading taxes".

                                      Most places I frequent the waiters don' tend to make that much cash on tips, let alone salary.

                                      Though my guess is we're talking about a very small percentage of restaurants/wait staff, generally speaking. Like, menially important to the overall tax collection.

                                      1. re: linguafood

                                        My tips are generous enough that I don't have to lose any sleep over whether I leave them on a credit card. Nor do I lose sleep over servers under-reporting their income to the IRS. What really upsets me is when people think they are such "sophisticated" diners just because they leave the tip in cash. If you think it's the right thing to do, you are definitely an amateur.

                                        1. re: nocharge

                                          I never would have thought that how you left a tip could make you be perceived as sophisticated or amateurish.

                                          1. re: wekick

                                            It's a false argument/position to begin with, so don't over think it!

                                            1. re: wekick

                                              Believe me, there are people who think that paying the bill with a credit card while leaving the tip in cash make them "sophisticated" diners.

                                              1. re: nocharge

                                                I've never heard anyone suggest that. Nor any connection between cc use and sophistication in any way.

                                                1. re: mcf

                                                  In addition to people that I personally know, there are plenty of people in this thread who have said that they leave the tip in cash (and thereby miss out on airline miles on their credit cards). I'd like to believe that it's because of a misguided belief that it makes them "sophisticated" diners rather than a plain desire to encourage restaurant servers to become tax cheats.

                                2. Cash tip! Servers do not declare the full amount of cash tips they get so they will get more of your money. When I waited tables, briefly, a smaller cash tip was actually better than a credit card tip. Say $15 cash vs $20 card since the $20 would be taxed. But rules regarding declaring cash tips may vary by establishment.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: WhatsEatingYou

                                    I have no issue with servers waiting until their pay period for their $$$ or paying taxes on their income. That is what the majority of people have to do regardless of their occupation.

                                    1. re: WhatsEatingYou

                                      You should be expecting a phone call from the IRS. I'm sure when you're a 19 year old kid the thought of tax evasion sounds a bit funny, but it's a serious crime, look at what it got Al Capone!

                                      Seriously, if a cash tip means it's a tax free tip, then I'm not inclined to participate. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the nation's policies, it's taxes that provide the infrastructure for you to survive, including printing that cash you should declare as income. If it's so the restaurant doesn't take a cut of your tips, I'm more inclined to go with that line of thought. But that brings up the issue of tipping out the other waitstaff, and stiffing them isn't any more respectable than me stiffing you.

                                      Again, this would all be a mute point if restaurants paid the waitstaff a livable wage in the first place and a gratuity was really just that, a small bonus for exceptionally great service, thank you.

                                      1. re: mikie

                                        My opinion is that every $ that someone doesn't declare to the IRS is a $ that the rest of us poor sods that get paid "above the table" have to make up.

                                      2. re: WhatsEatingYou

                                        So I should assist them in breaking the law and not paying their fair share of taxes? Thanks for giving me yet another reason to always charge it.

                                      3. I always leave a cash tip if I can.

                                        1. I'll tip in cash, but if course will deduct my ATM fee ;-)

                                          1. i pay the tab with my credit card and tip in cash.
                                            often i have servers as roommates, and it makes their lives easier to be able to tip out the runners/bussers/bartenders at the end of the evening.

                                            since they deposit the rest of the money into their checking accounts (they always paid their rent/utilites/credit card bills/gas from their checking account), they were unlikely trying to evade taxes. even the dumbest of them would know not to deposit money into a checking account if you want to break the law. . . .

                                            the tab is a legal debt of mine and i like having an automatic/easy way to demonstrate that the debt has been paid.
                                            the tip is a gift and i won't ever have to demonstrate that i paid it.

                                            1. A, unless you prefer that those of us with REAL JOBS lose more of our paychecks to pay the taxes that the food servers don't.

                                              3 Replies
                                                1. re: eastofnevada

                                                  For the sake of this discussion I would assume, and I don't mean to put words in someone's mouth, but, jobs where one is paid in full by the employer and all federal and state and local taxes are withheld based on information provided on a W-4. Again for the purpose of this discussion, I would assume non real jobs to include, any job where ones pay is something other than check or direct deposit, where ones tax liability has not been taken out of said pay per ones W-4. This would include cash tips that may or may not be reported as income by an individual. Not to imply that waitstaff or bartenders don't do real work and have real jobs. The same could apply to a construction worker that's paid in cash. At least that's my take on the "Real Jobs" comment. I woldn't take it as inflamatory.

                                                  1. re: mikie

                                                    Exactly Mikie. Thank you.

                                                    BTW, this is coming from a guy who, in his younger days, has worked pretty much every department in a restaurant (including pseudo-management as senior food server on graveyard with no management present).

                                              1. If you have the cash for the tip, go for it. My advice is to write on the slip on the tip line something to the effect of "left cash on table". That way they don't try to overcharge your card because they think you forgot to tip them. Had that happen once, and once is enough!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: generic_fit

                                                  Well, if someone commits a crime I'll be calling the cops. That's fraud and theft.

                                                2. It makes no difference at all to me. Like not even a little bit. In fact, the less cash I carry during the night, the less chance there is for me to lose it. I get my tips paid out to me at the end of the night if I'm owed any (no register, I keep all cash payments on me until the end of the night).

                                                  1. i just posted a link to mark bittman's well reported piece on tipping and the minimum age in today's ny times on the food media and news page.


                                                    1. Credit card! I want those airline miles. I carry very little cash. Why can't servers wait until payday to get paid like the rest of us? Why are they so special and privileged to expect immediate cash? Why should I assist servers in evading taxes by paying cash, when they should be paid "on the books" like everyone else?

                                                      1. I hate this thread so much right now. Not that I want to respond to bitter with bitter.
                                                        Maybe it's a Canada/America thing.
                                                        The "real job" thing really bothers me.
                                                        Anyway, I make an ok minimum wage, plus tips. Doesn't really matter to me too much if you pay cc or cash. Yes, I pay credit card fees. I tip out the same 4.75% every shift regardless - this is based on my sales, not my tips, so cash/credit doesn't impact it. I think there's been too much emphasis on servers being obnoxious about tipping recently - doesn't help our cause much. Our job is difficult, stressful, unrewarding for the most part. Yet I choose it still, and enjoy it, for the times I get to connect with people and make their day brighter.

                                                        1. How can I pay restaurant tab with a credit card and how do handle the tip

                                                          1. Cash, credit, check, gold, jewels, 6 pack of good beer.... the format doesn't matter nearly as much as the appropriate amount. I deliver pizza for Papa Johns I claim all of my tips cash or credit so the format doesn't make a difference to me I get 100% of whatever is given to me and uncle sam takes his cut off my paycheck. However it will make the restaurant happier if all the tips were cash and didn't have to pay the processing fee on the tip as well as the order. So in my book I would say whatever medium is good for you.