Around 2.5 million UK tourists visit the United States every year but that hasn’t stopped many Britons getting financially caught out every time they step off the plane.
Forget worrying about the best deal on converting your pounds to dollars, some of our biggest mistakes are painfully simple to make but can physically stop you from getting by, if you’re not careful.
The tipping etiquette
Everyone knows that tipping is an absolute minefield for the average Briton in the US.
This is mainly because the culture of tipping in the UK and America is so vastly different due to the gap in the minimum wage.
In the UK, the minimum wage is arguably livable at £6.50 ($US9.90), so restaurant or bar staff don’t depend on tips to get by. Also, generally, a discretionary 12.5% is added onto restaurant bills or big bar bills and we still tip extra if we think the waiter or waitress has done an exceptional job. In Britain, you rarely tip a bartender.
In the US, the national minimum wage is around £4.80 ($US7.50) and service staff are expected to bulk up their earnings with tips. Many depend on tips to pay rent and put food on the table.
However, many Britons don’t realise that and also really don’t get that you’re effectively expected to tip absolutely everyone for any kind of service. This includes taxi drivers, bar staff, concierge, and even your hairdresser.
In the US, even if you pay up front to eat at a buffet, you will be asked to pay between a 10% to 30% tip even if you’re serving yourself essentially and you haven’t even sat down to the table yet.
Pro tip: TripAdvisor tells you “tipping is not mandatory in most of the United States,” but around 15%-20% is considered acceptable.
Thinking you have the exact money at the till
Britons are usually caught out by the sales tax in the US, not because they don’t think it exists, but because it isn’t included in the item’s price already.
In the UK, if a pair of shoes was £40, this would be the amount you pay at the till because the VAT is already included.
In America, due to the variance in local taxes depending on cities, sales tax is added after the goods have been input in the till. Local rates range from 1.8% to 7.666%, depending on the city.
Pro tip: Carry around lots of dollar bills, if paying by cash, to use as “extra” when going to the till so you don’t break a big note.
Not carrying ID
Chip and pin cards, and now contactless, are used predominantly in the UK. We don’t really ever use cheques anymore and, in fact, it’s very rare to ever sign for card payment.
However, in the US, even if you have a chip and pin, you pretty much have to always sign for your card payment and because of this, a number of retailers or restaurants will ask for ID to make sure you are the owner of the card.
Considering most tourists will not want carry around their passport while sight seeing or going out for dinner, this can prove difficult if you want pay for purchases or dinner.
Pro tip: Carry your driving or provisional driving licence around with you at all times. At least if this is lost, you’ll still be able to catch that flight home.