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I've been traveling in Europe for the past few months and I'm still confused about this! In most countries, it seems the common courtesy (according to tipping websites and the locals that I've talked to) is to leave a 5%-10% tip in restaurants, although it's not as "required" as it is in the US. Usually this is done by paying in cash and telling them to keep the change. However, what do you do when you pay by credit card? There's no tip line like there is in the US! What do the locals usually do? Do they leave a cash tip? Write it on the receipt? Don't leave a tip at all? I've tried giving a cash tip after paying by card in the past, but it's usually awkward and the waiters don't always understand what I'm trying to do. (And what if I don't happen to have any change on me?)

On rare occasion I've had the opportunity to add a % tip on the wireless card reader that waiters use, but that was mostly in Spain. I've only seen it once or twice everywhere else, possibly because my card is Chip-and-Signature, not Chip-and-Pin.

I'm sure there's variation from country to country, but it seems pretty much universally true that the recommendation will be 5%-10% in restaurants, and that there will be nowhere to add a tip on the credit card slip. What do I do to avoid coming off as stingy?

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    IMHO there is no universal rule across countries, nor meals In France for example some people leave a tip after drinking espresso at the counter, by adding a few tens of cents. Regarding recommendations, tipping has been widely discusses on TSE. I'm sure you can find a lot of inspiration in those questions. :) – JoErNanO Jan 29 '15 at 14:23
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    Yeah, I have no problem with tipping etiquette — just the specific case of paying by credit card, which I haven't seen much discussion of. – Archagon Jan 29 '15 at 14:25
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    In the UK I (almost) always tip in cash. That makes it harder for the employer to count tips towards the minimum wage and other tricky practices. This is true even if I'm paying by card. The habit carries over well into the rest of Europe, even if the behind-the-scenes behaviour varies. – Chris H Jan 29 '15 at 14:44
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    One thing that might also happen is that you are tipping too much. In many places, locals just round up or leave a few euros, so perhaps around 2 to 5% of the bill. If you leave 10 to 15% without explaining it clearly in their language, people might be afraid that you are making a mistake. – Relaxed Jan 30 '15 at 8:54
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In continental Europe, use cash, nothing else. That's a simple rule you should follow, all other discussions are a distraction.

There are some differences between countries but generally speaking tipping on the credit card is highly unusual, in most countries you won't find any routine way to add a tip on the bill and many people will not know what to do if you ask them to do it. In those places, if you do manage to add a tip to the credit card charge, the money probably won't come back to the waiting staff anyway.

Even in countries where adding a tip to a credit card bill is not that unusual, without being common, like the UK, I am sure most waiters prefer getting cash to avoid sharing with their boss and paying admin fees or taxes.

As an example, I worked at a café/restaurant in France and I can tell you that nobody ever tipped with a credit or debit card (and that includes many tourists from the UK, the Netherlands, or Belgium and some from Spain, Germany, Switzerland or elsewhere). Most people paying by card did not tip at all, those who felt generous just left some extra cash on their table or even handed it to me after paying.

If you would have asked us to add a tip to the credit card, my colleagues and myself wouldn't even know what to do. I am not aware of any way to separate the tip from the price of the meal in either the cash register or the POS card terminal and it would simply mess up the total at the end of the day. We weren't allowed to give you some cash by charging more on the card either.

As you will read in the comments and elsewhere, there are many countries in Europe and some are slightly different in this respect but you can't go wrong with cash. Most importantly for your purpose, in most of Europe, it's definitely very common to tip in cash even if you pay by card.

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    I saw many POS machines in many establishments in the UK allowing you to add tip before entering your PIN code. I wouldn't know how common they might be in the rest of Europe, but from personal experience I would say not so much. – JoErNanO Jan 29 '15 at 16:29
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    @JoErNanO I think you ought to specify that in your answer, btw, instead of suggesting it's true everywhere in Europe and it's about being modern. – Relaxed Jan 29 '15 at 16:42
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    @JoErNanO Note that the issue in the link you posted was for 'limited service' (i.e. mostly fast food) establishments. Tipping via POS has been commonplace in full-service restaurants in the U.S. as long as POS terminals have been around and tipping by card predates even that. Tipping is not usually customary at all (by card or otherwise) for limited service restaurants in the U.S., though, which is where the debate was coming from. I do think the bit about being modern is fair, though, since electronic payment/cashless society is a rather modern concept. – reirab Jan 29 '15 at 17:04
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    @JoErNanO Sorry but that's a load of BS. The US is far from being ahead of Europe when it comes to electronic payments, in several respects they are clearly behind. Paying by chip-and-PIN card has been extremely common in France for decades, the (very few) places that don't accept it, do it to skimp on the cost, not because credit cards are a new thing. And in the US, tips are the main remuneration for service staff, not so in Europe so the context is completely different. If you think it's some sort of linear process every country has to go through, you don't understand the issues. – Relaxed Jan 29 '15 at 17:06
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    It seems like an overly broad generalization to make such statement for whole of continental Europe. From personal experience in Norway at every place card terminal explicitly offered to add a tip and that was what everyone used. So in some countries it does seem to be common. – Rarst Jan 29 '15 at 20:16
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In the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany its very common to tell the waiter, make it (Price+ Price * 5-10%) euro. Then they will simply input this in there credit card reader, and it get's sorted at the end of the day. (Your tip is divided along all staff working during your visit.)

Source: I live in The Netherlands close to the Belgium and German border, this is what everyone does.

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    Precisely - that's the order to things: First you get the bill, see the total, then you hand over your card saying "make it XY Euros" - typically you would round up in the same way as you would do it with cash (e.g., if the bill is for 46.52 Euros, you say "Make it 50 Euros"). – DCTLib Jan 30 '15 at 9:27
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    In Belgium you would add some extra to show you're really satisfied. It's not a general rule. – stevenvh Jan 31 '15 at 17:12
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The classical way to go about this is to leave cash on the table. Your receipt will usually come in either a receipt-wallet (left), or a small plate of some kind (right):

Receipt wallet Receipt plate

After you pay for the meal, drop the tip in there. Usually this means that the waiter who attended you will collect the tip, before clearing the table for the next customers. You can also look out for a tip-jar, which can often be found in certain easy-going places (read: bars).

Other, more modern electronic payment services, allow you to specify the tip before you enter your PIN on the POS (card payment machine). Now I don't have exact figures in terms of how widely-adopted these machines are. From personal experience I recall using them several times in the UK, and a handful of times in Europe.

Should you encounter such POS machines, note that the tip recipient might not be the waiter who actually attended you. This is indeed dependent on the restaurant policy. The tip could also be placed into a common virtual tipping jar which will be then divided between waiters. Moreover, since the tip will be added to the total card payment it will be handled by the card companies. Hence a percentage of it will be taken as processing fee or whatever. Point being, if you want to be sure that a the staff receives the full tip amount, leave it in cash.

The tip line on the credit card slip is IMHO unique to those countries where tipping is more required than optional, such as the US.

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    "the US is often ahead of Europe when it comes to electronic payments" - Wasn't the US late in adopting EMV (UK:chip&pin) and isn't that one reason we still have (archaic and insecure) magnetic stripes? – RedGrittyBrick Jan 29 '15 at 17:32
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    @RedGrittyBrick There's an interesting article on this here. There were also pre-EMV chip&pin cards widely available in France from the early '90s. – Bruno Jan 29 '15 at 18:38
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    @RedGrittyBrick: If you are the first to adopt a technology, you are also the last to obsolete it, because you have so much invested in it. GSM came late to the US for the same reasons, even though the US was arguably the first to implement (analog) cellular service on a large scale. – Robert Harvey Jan 29 '15 at 20:16
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    @RedGrittyBrick More like the US was waiting for Europe to work out all the bugs and security problems in chip and pin. – Michael Hampton Jan 29 '15 at 20:54
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    "if you want to be sure that a particular waiter gets your tip, leave it in cash." If the policy is that tips are shared among the staff, cash is no exception from that and you can't tip an individual waiter. – kapex Jan 29 '15 at 23:34
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In Sweden - when paying with credit card - you almost always get the option of specifying the total amount you want to pay. Many people don't use cash at all any more so it is the only way for the restaurant staff to get a tip. (I guess it then depends on the restaurant if and how it is distributed among the staff.) This seems to differ from most of continental Europe.

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In almost all European countries I've been so far, I observed that most people do it the following way (and I also have done it a lot and it almost never caused any troubles or uncertainties):

After receiving the bill, I added a 5% - 10% tip and told the waiter the total amount, including the tip I want to pay. The total amount was then typed into the credit card reader by the waiter and then I paid the whole amount with my credit card.

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    The waiter will get to keep more of the tip if you tip in cash, as lots of employers deduct a admin charge from the tip to cover processing costs. – Ian Ringrose Jan 29 '15 at 14:36
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    That's bad advice. You might have been doing that all along oblivious to the issue but the fact is that's really uncommon in most European countries and in many restaurants the waiting staff won't see any of your tip money. – Relaxed Jan 29 '15 at 16:07
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    That's definitively not true. I'm sure that this is very common at least in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, France, Liechtenstein, Austria, ... – RoflcoptrException Jan 29 '15 at 19:11
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    @RoflcoptrException I have to admit I am also a bit puzzled by this answer. I have grown up and lived in various parts of Switzerland until very recently and travelled quite a bit around Europe and have never seen this done before. Do you usually visit more upscale places? I wonder whether it is something that is done commonly in more expensive restaurants, that could explain the disparity between the different observations here. – drat Jan 30 '15 at 8:47
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    @RemcoGerlich Because that's what tips are for? Why even bother otherwise? Do you also tip supermarkets? – Relaxed Jan 30 '15 at 21:28
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I live in the UK and the only restaurants that are known for taking a tip via card are chains like Pizza Express, Outback Steakhouse, Wagamamas, ect. You can write the tip amount on the bill that they give you before you pay. sometimes they bring a PDQ terminal to the table in which case you can tell them to "add x pounds for yourself" or if you're mainly at the bar or getting drinks it is common to say "get yourself a drink" and typical tips in the UK are around the 10% mark

Furthermore, restaurants that aren't chains may not even accept card payments... You should really bring cash unless you're sure it accepts card (and isn't a chain).

Restaurants in the UK and Europe in general don't expect everyone to tip so if you don't leave a tip it's not the end of the world because chances are, the server has still been paid for their work.

Also, if you want to have a minimal-service meal you can go to a pub and order food there. You have to go to the bar to make your order, so it's a step-down from restaurant service and hence your hardly expected to tip at all.

  • Be aware that some restaurants take all the money paid on the card for the company and do NOT pass it on to the staff, whether they call it tip, service charge or whatever. (And those can be Micheling starred restaurants as well as any with lower ambitions.) I heard the details about England but fear it is wider spread. Better leave cash on the table, more likely to end in the pocket you want it. – Willeke Mar 2 '17 at 19:55

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