It’s hard to unwind at the spa when all you’re thinking about is how much to tip. Here's how much gratuity to give your massage therapist.

By Cari Wira Dineen
Updated August 02, 2019
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Massages soothe sore muscles and can help relax you—it’s no wonder they’re growing in popularity. The rise of massage franchise locations and day spas, as well as new and innovative varieties of massage, such as hot stone, shiatsu, or Thai, points to a growing trend: More and more people are opting to include massage and spa therapies into their lifestyle.

"Whether you get a massage on a regular basis or view it as an occasional treat, it’s important to know that tipping for your massage is considered proper etiquette,” says Sharon Schweitzer, international etiquette expert and the founder of Protocol & Etiquette Worldwide. “Because a massage therapist or aesthetician is providing a service, you should tip them in addition to the cost of your service.” Keep in mind that when you get a massage or facial at a spa, you're paying the spa for the service you receive from the aesthetician. While he or she receives a portion of your payment, the therapist is not being paid directly by you. “The bottom line is that your tip helps your massage therapist’s bottom line—they count on gratuities as income,” says says Daniel Post, spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute.

This all begs the question—how much should you tip for a massage (or other great spa treatment)? Here are answers to all your tip amount and etiquette questions, right here.

How Much to Tip for a Massage—and How and When to Do It

The standard hospitality rate for massage tipping is 20 percent. For example, if a massage or body treatment costs $100, a 20 percent tip would be $20. “You can tip more or less depending on how satisfied you were with the massage,” says Schweitzer, who says it’s really important to plan ahead and bring cash to tip your massage therapist. “When you pay cash directly to your masseuse, he or she gets to take it home the very same day, instead of waiting for the spa to ‘tip out’ on the therapist’s regular paycheck,” she says.

Many spas provide small envelopes to include tips. Simply write your therapists name on the front and a note that it was from you. No envelopes available? Schweitzer says she always slips her intended cash tip into her spa robe pocket and simply hands it to her therapist after her treatment is over. And don’t forget to simply say thank you. “Telling someone they did a good job is worth its weight in gold,” Schweitzer says.

How Much to Tip if You're Using a Coupon

If you purchase a series of massages or a deal from a discount site, you should still tip 20 percent on the original price—not the discounted price. “While you may have gotten a discount, the massage therapist still did the same amount of work, so he or she deserves a tip on the regular price of the treatment,” Post says.

How Much to Tip for a Private Massage

Since tips are standard protocol for massage therapists, you should assume a 20 percent tip in any massage or spa treatment situation (unless a self-employed therapist specifically tells you their rate is all-inclusive). Not sure? When in doubt, always ask, says Post, who says tipping is always appreciated.

How Much to Tip for a Massage at a Hotel Spa

Some all-inclusive spa destinations, like Canyon Ranch or other destination spas, often include gratuity in their pricing or automatically add it to the final bill. Schweitzer says to always check over your final bill to make sure gratuity was not already added, and to ask the person who checks you in or out of the spa what the tip policy is.

Should You Tip the Owner of the Spa or Salon?

Unless the owner of the spa or salon actually performs the service, there's no reason to tip, says Schweitzer.

Is There Ever a Time Not to Tip?

The only time you should not tip your massage therapist is if you find yourself at an all-inclusive spa where they distinctly say that they have a no-tipping policy.

What about if it wasn't that great an experience? “Even if your massage wasn’t the best one you’ve ever received, it’s important to give a tip even if it’s less than the standard 20 percent,” says Post. If you had a negative experience, speak with the manager or the front desk instead of withholding a tip.

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