Republicans, men, credit card users are the best tippers

Lisa Scherzer
Lisa Scherzer

Who are the best tippers? According to a new survey by CreditCards.com, the most generous tippers are men, Republicans, Northeasterners and credit and debit card users. (Probably not among this group: Oklahoma City Thunder guard Andre Roberson, who last week left a $13.97 tip on a $487.13 bar tab and was promptly teased by teammates on Twitter.)

All these groups tip a median of 20% when dining at a restaurant, the CreditCards.com survey found. At the other end of the spectrum, women tip a median of 16% and Democrats, southerners and people who pay in cash tip a median of 15%.

So why do men and Republicans come out as the better tippers? Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com’s senior industry analyst, says it generally comes down to income.

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

“The more money you have, the more likely you are to leave a little more money on table at end of the night. Those groups – Republicans, men, Northeasterners – are higher income than their counterparts,” he said.

Men aren’t always so generous

About half of those who tip restaurant servers typically fall within a 16%-20% range for tips, and a tip amount of 11%-15% is a distant second. And we were a little shocked to learn that one out of five restaurant diners doesn’t leave gratuity at all, at least occasionally, according to the survey.

“I was definitely surprised by how many people tip over 15%, but I was also surprised by how many people never tip at all at a restaurant,” said Schulz. “How is that even possible? I’m guessing they don’t get very good service on their next visit.”

The survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates on behalf of CreditCards.com, also looked at Americans’ tipping habits at hotels, coffee shops and hair salons/barber shops:

— 27% of hotel customers always tip their housekeeper; 31% never do.

— 29% who visit coffee shops always tip their barista; 30% never do.

— 67% always tip their hair stylist/barber; 12% never do.

While men tend to be more generous restaurant tippers than women, according to the survey, that magnanimity doesn’t apply to the other categories. Here’s where women are more likely than men to tip:

— Hotel housekeepers (47% of women always/mostly do so, compared with just 33% of men)

— Baristas (47% of women always/mostly tip compared with 41% of men)

— Hair stylists/barbers (79% of women always/mostly tip vs. 74% of men)

Paying with a credit card

How you pay affects how much you tip: The survey found that people tend to tip more generously when they use plastic. Not all that surprising given the research showing how much easier it is to spend more when you pay with debit or credit vs. cash.

The expansion of payment reader Square has also made it easier to tip more people and in higher amounts.

“Whether you’re at a food truck or whether your handyman takes credit cards, that technology has really made a big difference in who you can tip with a credit card. Even if you’re just at a sandwich shop, the Square reader asks: do you want to tip 0%, 10% or 20%?” Schulz said.

Many consumers are guilted into selecting 10%, 15%, or 20% tip amounts when they might not have tipped at all for their turkey sandwich lunch had they just paid in cash.

Credit card rewards are also playing a part in tipping, says Schulz. There’s a lot of competition in the credit card industry to lure consumers with ever-more generous rewards. Some give you rewards based on where you spend, including restaurants – so tipping with cash instead of a credit card may not seem that significant when it comes to points, but over several years, “it can add up to a missed opportunity for rewards,” he says.

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