It's rare that I have cash in my wallet. For almost every purchase I make, regardless of the amount, I use my debit or credit card. When I make the weekly grocery run, I use my debit card. When I'm out running errands and stop to grab a bottled soft drink at a convenience store for $1.75, I use my debit card. And, when my family and I go to a restaurant for lunch or dinner, or when I'm at a bar with my wife or some friends having a few beers, I pay the tab and leave the server a tip with, you guessed it, my debit card. But, the server has a very good reason why they would prefer you and I plan ahead and swing by an ATM to grab some cash before stopping into their place.

Why Most Servers Would Rather You Tip With Cash


My wife has a friend who works part-time as a bartender at a restaurant in Newburgh. We stopped by recently for trivia night and after the night was done (we came in second place in case you were wondering), I paid our tab and left a tip for our friend on my debit card, like I always do. After I signed the receipt and our friend picked it up, my wife asked if I had left her a cash tip. I told her I didn't and she told me that when she goes there with her girlfriends, she always makes a point to take some cash with her for the tip. When I asked her why she said it was because our friend wouldn't end up getting the full amount of the tip I wrote down.

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She went on to say our friend explained to her that when someone leaves a tip on their card instead of leaving cash, the processing fee the credit card company charges the restaurant comes out of the total amount. So, even though you left a 20% tip, they may only get 17 to 18% of it, depending on the processing fee. On top of that, the tip will go on their paycheck where it will be taxed, knocking the amount down even further.

Tax forms, close up
The taxman always cometh. (FabrikaCr)

Cash is King But They'll Take Tips However You Give Them

After my wife told me this, I did some research. Not because I didn't believe her (momma didn't raise no fool), but because I wanted to corroborate her story before sharing it with you.

I found a website called, The Takeout, a food and pop culture website created by the same people who started The A.V. Club and The Onion websites, which has a featured column called "The Salty Waitress." The column is similar to the famous "Dear Abby" question and answer column, except the questions are all related to the food industry, and the answers are a little more, well, salty. In March 2018, she responded to a question about whether or not customers should leave a tip in cash or on the card of their choosing. According to her, "for the most part, cash rules."

Like my wife's friend said, Salty also says that cash tips are preferred because servers can usually leave with them once their shift is over and use them immediately if they need to. With that said, she does note that every restaurant is different when it comes to tips. Some will cash out the tips left on cards at the end of the night and give the money directly to the servers right then and there.

She goes on to say that servers also understand that not everyone carries cash like they used, and even if they ultimately won't get the full 20% you left on your card, it's better than getting nothing at all. They also know that if you're treating a large group of people to dinner for whatever reason reach and there's a good chance the bill will eclipse a few hundred bucks, chances are you're going to charge that to a credit card and won't have the cash on you to cover what should be a substantial tip. Again, they'll take it however you can give it to them.

Large group of friends having fun and drinking beer at a restaurant
The guy in the dark shirt "forgot" his wallet...again. (Antonio_Diaz)

Since every restaurant has different policies when it comes to tipping the staff, Salty says you could always bring both a card and cash and then simply ask your server which one they prefer. My guess is they'll be happy to hear you plan on tipping them and will tell you to go whichever way is easiest for you.

[Source: The Salty Waitress via The Takeout]

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