When was the last time you used your credit or debit card for some type of goods or service?

Were you slightly surprised when the debit machine asked you to give a tip?

There seems to be a rise in the number of fast food restaurants, kiosks, and services that ask you to dig a little deeper into your pocket to give a tip where you normally wouldn’t have before.

The minimum is sometimes as high as 20%, with 15% becoming increasingly common as a suggested amount.

With this new trend in mind, should Canadians be tipping for these untraditional tipping services?

If so, should it be the same amount you’d give, say, your waitress?

Read on for:

My recent tale

I was at a local fast food restaurant which had recently switched to a new payment system.

For the first time since I began eating there, I was asked for a tip when paying with my credit card.

My first instinct was to decline since this wasn’t a service I would normally tip for, but the experience got me thinking…

Should I have tipped?

Why would a fast food restaurant ask for tips ‒ even if only minimal service is being provided?

I go there often, and know the owner…so I decided to ask about it.

She explained that when the payment terminals were recently installed, the company installing them asked if she wanted to have tipping added as an option.

Related: The Ultimate Foodie Credit Cards

Being a savvy business owner, she saw it as a way to earn some extra money, even though people don’t generally tip at sandwich shops, and decided to have the option added.

She said most people still don’t tip, but the odd customer does because (she assumes) they feel obligated to. And this got me thinking even more…

I wondered how many people would tip in nontraditional places, without even really thinking about their budget.

With the suggested minimum for tipping slowly increasing from around 10-15%, even 20% in some cases, it would be interesting to know how many people tip when paying with plastic, simply because:

  • they feel obligated,
  • are caught off guard, or
  • don’t want to come off as someone who is cheap.

How many people are tipping without any thought to their bottom line?

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Paying with cash vs. plastic

I almost always pay with my credit card for any transaction above $10 for two reasons:

  • I like earning rewards, and
  • I like the protection credit card companies offer consumers.

This can often be problematic.

Firstly, I find it a lot easier to tip a high amount when using plastic.

It’s easier to tip a higher amount when paying with plastic because you don’t need to have the physical cash on hand and the machine does the math for you.

For instance, on a $40 dinner, I can easily leave a 20% tip when using a payment terminal. But when I pay with cash, a bit more thought usually goes into it.

It’s also easier to overspend using a payment terminal because the tip usually gets calculated on the total including tax instead of the pretax amount.

Plus, some payment terminals are confusing in relation to tipping. They almost force you to quickly choose a percentage to tip (usually 15%) ‒ and it can be difficult to get past that step without leaving a tip.

Related: Credit Card Fraud: 5 Things I Wish I Knew

Staying on budget: Pay with plastic, tip with cash

If you want to show appreciation for good service, but also stay on budget? Here’s what I would recommend:

Pay with plastic (to earn rewards) and tip with cash.

That way you won’t be tempted to tip a higher amount and will be limited to tipping only what you have on hand.

If you don’t have enough cash for a reasonable tip, there’s no harm in using the terminal. Just make sure to choose a dollar value instead of a percentage.

Since the tip percentage usually gets calculated on the total including tax, it’s easier to overspend if you choose this option.

Example: If your bill is $50 (before tax) a general rule of thumb is to tip $5 for minimal service (10%), $7.50 for good service (15%), and $10 for great service (20%).

Level of service Tip % rule of thumb
Minimal 10%
Good 15%
Great 20%

I find tipping anything higher than 20% to be excessive, and I would only do this if the service was amazing. Despite this, the new payment terminals tend to lean towards higher suggested tips.

Added bonus: Consider adding the to your wallet.

This card will give you 5 points for every dollar you spend at restaurants and bars (as well as grocery stores).

So, even if you do end up tipping a little more than you intended, you’ll be earning some impressive rewards on top of possibly making a server’s night.

When and where I tip

With tipping options popping up on debit terminals everywhere, many people are left wondering where and when they should tip. Here’s a quick guide that could help:

When I tip Where I tip
Always Services
Often Transportation
Rarely Coffee shops and vehicle work

Always tip: Services

I generally tip when receiving most services: getting a haircut, grabbing drinks at a pub, getting clothes cleaned from a dry cleaner (especially if it’s a last minute request), or when getting food delivered.

For these services, I generally tip around 15% depending on the level of service received.

Related: The Ins and Outs of Credit Card Concierge

Often tip: Transportation

One of the things I like about transportation services like Uber is that there is no tipping involved. The payment is taken automatically and I don’t have to look for cash at the end of a trip.

Riders have the option to tip after a trip is completed ‒ but I don’t feel obligated to tip like I would with a taxi service.

Unfortunately, the automatic payment system also makes it easy for me to forget to tip completely, even when the service was good.

Rarely tip: Coffee shops and vehicle work

There are also some services I don’t generally tip for.

I don’t tip at coffee shops because my drink is always very straightforward to make and I feel like there isn’t enough service provided to justify a tip.

If I were to order the fancier options that require the barista to go above simply pouring coffee into a cup, I might consider tipping for their time and effort.

A good middle ground for services like coffee shops that don’t always require a tip would be a tip jar. That way you can leave some spare change if you feel it’s deserved. Or, even if you just don’t want to carry around the change they gave you back.

I also don’t tip when getting work done on my vehicle, though I’ve noticed the local shop I use has added a tip option on their payment terminals.

Conclusion

The act of tipping has always been filled with questions and variables.

Should I tip here?

How much of a tip does the service deserve?

Does it deserve a tip at all?

Should I include tax in my calculations?

This has only grown more complicated with the introduction of tipping options on an increasing amount of machines – even for services you wouldn’t traditionally consider tipping for.

The thing to keep in mind is that tipping is not an obligation. Only tip when you feel it’s deserved.