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How much to tip at New York hotels: the ultimate guide

When, where, and how to tip hotel staffers who go the extra mile

Tip hotel staff, such as the concierge or front desk attendants, when they’ve provided helpful services.
Photo by Will Femia

Most people have the hang of what tip when dining out or drinking at bars (18 to 20 percent is standard, lower if service is abysmal). But when staying at a hotel, the tip amounts can vary wildly depending on what kind of service you encounter and what kind of things are done for you.

Some people may not even know who, exactly, on the hotel staff you’re supposed to tip, let alone how much. And some of you might even be saying, “Wait, what? I have to tip on top of the room rate and the taxes?”

Well, you don’t have to. But if someone is cleaning your extra-dirty messes, hauling your abnormally heavy bags, or scoring you reservations at a hot nightclub, tipping is the best way to show your appreciation to them for going above and beyond their duties. And though a few restaurants in New York City have done away with tipping by raising menu prices to properly compensate their staff, hotel workers very much depend on tips to supplement their wages.

So to help you avoid those super-awkward, panic-inducing moments before you pull out your wallet, here are some handy pointers on who tip, when to tip, and how much to tip.

For starters, NYC & Company, the city’s tourism board, has put together this helpful list of who to tip at the city’s hotels and how much is appropriate.

Hotel Doorman: $1 for a hailing a cab.

Porters and Bellhops: $1-$2 per bag.

Housekeeeping: $1-$2 per day of your visit, or as much as $5 per day.

Waitstaff and Bartenders: 15-20 percent of total bill. (Note: Marta and Mailano restaurants within the Redbury New York Hotel and the Gramercy Park Hotel are actually part of the Union Square Hospitality Group which has implemented a No Tipping policy.)

The American Hotel & Lodging Association compiled its own, more detailed list back in 2014 that still stands as a good guide today for who and how much to tip:

Hotel Courtesy Shuttle Driver: $1-2 per person, $5 per party.

Valet/Parking Attendant: $1-5 when car is delivered.

Bellstaff/Porters: $1-5 per bag when escorted to your room and if they show you around the room. Tip the same if you request bell staff service while checking out.

Doorstaff: $1-2 for getting a taxi. If they unload your luggage, tip in proportion to amount and weight.

Concierge: $5-10 depending on how involved the service, or lump sum upon departure.

Housekeeping: $1-5 per night, and tip should be left daily in the morning. If possible, leave a note saying the money is for housekeeping.

Delivery of Special Items: $2 for one item, $5 for more. Tipping is not required for someone fixing something broken or bringing something missing.

Room Service: A gratuity of 15-20 percent should be added if hotel did not include a room service charge on the bill.

Bartender: Tip 15-20 percent of total beverage tab.

Server in Restaurant: Tip 15 percent of total bill or 20 percent for exceptional service.

As for when to tip, the commonly agreed time is when the service is completed, such as when the bellman drops off your bags in the room or when the concierge comes through with those theater tickets.

With housekeeping, some hotels like Marriott Hotels and the Ace Hotel offer special tip envelopes to leave by the nightstand or on the desk to denote which staff member the tip is for. These tips should also be left on a daily basis since the same person may not always clean your room every day of the stay.

Unsure when to tip housekeeping staff? Every day is best to ensure the right person gets tipped.
Photo by Max Touhey

But let’s say you’re staying at a luxury hotel—should you tip more than you would at a budget lodging? Not necessarily. An employee at a smaller boutique hotel, who wished to remain anonymous, explains that tipping is more about “showing appreciation for the service being provided, regardless of the quality accommodations.”

And as with all tipping, it’s based on the quality of service received. “Sometimes, the housekeepers and bellman truly go above and beyond at a business or chain hotel, even more so than a luxury resort because they rely so heavily on tips for their income,” says Stacy Small, CEO and founder of Elite Travel International, a luxury travel agency.

Small often tips more than the AHLA recommended amounts, especially if someone has made her hotel or travel experience easier and better. “I want the people helping me to remember me as one of the customers who appreciated their efforts, rather than the opposite,” she notes.

Often a luxury hotel will have more services to offer its guests, meaning more instances where tips are needed. According to one hospitality industry executive, “the rule of thumb is the more services provided to you, the more you should expect to be tipping.” Let’s say you’re at the St. Regis New York, and utilize the butler service the hotel provides to some guests—$20 per day would be a good start, though you may want to give more more if they do something extraordinary for you during your stay.

But what happens if you’re out of cash? It’s certainly possible these days, thanks to the ubiquity of credit cards and the advent of mobile apps where you can pay for everything from groceries to blow-outs and taxis on your phone. Small advises asking the employee when they will be working so she can find them after she gets cash. “But I always try to remember to hit the ATM prior to every trip so that I have small bills ($5-$20s) readily available,” she said.

Or you could ask the bellman if he takes Venmo.