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7 "Polite" Holiday Tipping Habits That Are Actually Offensive, Etiquette Experts Say

These are the gratuity gaffes you'll want to avoid this giving season.

'Tis the season of giving! As we get closer and closer to the end of the year, many of us choose to spread holiday cheer by giving back to others—especially to those who are providing some type of service for us. But in your attempt to show your appreciation, you could end up coming across as rude instead. To help you avoid any gratuity gaffes over the holidays, we talked to etiquette and financial experts to get insight on what to avoid when giving back. Read on to discover seven "polite" holiday tipping habits that are actually offensive.

RELATED: 7 "Polite" Tipping Habits That Are Actually Offensive, Etiquette Experts Say.

Tipping someone with a gift card

Woman opening a gift box with a card inside

While it may be gift-giving season, gift cards aren't a replacement for standard gratuity.

"It is not polite to tip someone with a gift card," Billy Parker, etiquette expert and director of, warns. "This can be seen as an insult to the recipient's work and can be seen as a way to avoid giving a cash tip."

RELATED: 6 Tipping Mistakes You're Making When You Go Out to Eat, Experts Say.

Or tipping with any gifts

female hands packing gifts in linen cloth. Furoshiki gifts. Zero waste Christmas. top view.

In fact, gifts in general should not take the place of money. Leo Smigel, a personal finance expert and founder of Analyzing Alpha, advises against giving any non-monetary gift to service workers in the coming weeks.

"Personal items like baked goods or small trinkets can suggest an assumption about the individual tastes and needs of the recipient," he explains. "Cash is king in the tipping world—it allows people the freedom to choose."

Sharing holiday cheer in lieu of money

Friends having dinner on Christmas` eve at restaurant. Christmas holidays concept.

Words aren't going to outweigh what money can mean to someone during the holiday season either, Gillian Dewar, financial expert and CFO of Crediful, notes.

"Writing a seasonal greeting or sharing holiday well-wishes is a nice gesture, but it should never replace a tip," she says. "You're stripping service professionals of cash that might be vital to get them through the holidays."

RELATED: 6 Places You Should Never Tip, According to Etiquette Experts.

Only tipping at sit-down restaurants

Elevated View Of Bill And Banknote On Wooden Desk

If you aren't already extending your tips all year-round, it's at least important to remember to spread the wealth during the holidays. In other words, you shouldn't stick to tipping exclusively at sit-down restaurants right now, according to Dewar.

"So many people rely on tips to fund their holiday season, and tips extend far outside the restaurant realm," she says. "Tip your baristas, delivery drivers, and mail deliverers—these hardworking people work diligently for you all year."

Not tipping more for big to-go orders

Fast food restaurant during coronavirus pandemic. Female fast food worker with protective face mask packing meals

Many of us gather in large groups with our loved ones throughout the holiday season, and we may decide to cater the celebration instead of cooking. But if that's the case, don't tip sparingly, Thomas Franklin, finance expert and founder of Bitinvestor, cautions.

"You may have been tipping for to-go orders, but it's offensive to tip less than when you're dining in," he shares. "Although it's takeout, someone took the time to assemble your order, ensure everything was in place, and even added cutlery. This adds to their tasks for the day during the already busy holiday season."

Normally, a $2 to $5 tip is "courteous" for to-go orders, according to Franklin. "But if it's a large or intricate order this holiday season, consider tipping more," he advises.

RELATED: 5 Places Where Tipping Can Get You Much Better Service, Experts Say.

Mixing cash and card payments

Credit cards and dollars in cash close up.

If you're trying to be more helpful to workers during the giving season, avoid mixing cash and card payments by telling your server to take cash off and put the rest on the card, Franklin adds. During the holiday rush, "combining both can be confusing and stressful for servers," according to the finance expert.

"No matter how well you explain or how many circled receipts you provide, it can lead to anxiety," he explains. "Save them the stress and stick to one mode of payment. Either pay entirely by card or completely in cash."

Making a big show of giving generous tips

American cash money in hundred-dollar bills, including a wrapped wad of banknotes.

It's not necessarily a bad thing to be over-generous during the holiday season—no one is going to say no to a larger tip. But that doesn't mean you're entitled to make a scene about leaving more than standard gratuity, according to Kimberly Wall, etiquette expert and the founder of

"Making a big show of tipping is generally frowned upon as handing out tips publicly can embarrass the receiver," she says. "Instead, discreetly give out any large tips this holiday season to demonstrate your respect for their dignity."

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Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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