Digital Tip Jars: What They Are & How They Can Help Your Business

A digital tip jar is a cashless tipping solution that enables customers to give staff gratuities without using cash. In an increasingly cashless economy, many business owners struggle with how to reward staff members with tips when fewer and fewer customers carry currency.

What Is a Digital Tip Jar?

A digital tip jar is an app or online platform that lets customers give gratuities – often to entertainment or hospitality workers like musicians, baristas, or valets – without the need for physical cash. Digital tip jars offer a seamless, cashless tipping experience that aligns with the growing trend toward digital payments. They can be utilized through various methods such as QR codes, links, or embedded buttons on websites, making them convenient, safe, and efficient for customers.

How Do Digital Tip Jars Work?

In practice, a digital tip jar works very similarly to tip jars of old. However, instead of dropping in spare change or bills, customers can send tips electronically either through a payment app or a dedicated digital tipping platform. These platforms – including ours – support various payment methods, including credit/debit cards and mobile wallets. They let business owners generate QR codes or links that can be shared with customers, making it easy to scan or click to tip.

Though still relatively new, digital tip jars can be a boon – particularly to staff in the hospitality and entertainment industries. These apps offer an easy, low-cost way to collect tips and can be particularly beneficial in businesses with multiple service layers or those with a significant delivery component. Customers, who increasingly favor cashless transactions, appreciate the convenience and simplicity of digital tipping. They can show their appreciation for good service with just a few taps on their smartphone.

Digital Tip Jar Fee Structure

Digital tip jars typically charge a percentage fee on each tip received – often around 8.9% – plus a flat fee – usually $0.30 per transaction. In contrast, Kickfin provides a digital tip jar service for a 5% fee, plus $0.20 per transaction. This fee is primarily used to cover the operational costs of the platform, including transaction processing fees.

It’s important to note that while some platforms might not charge the businesses directly, they may charge the customer a surcharge. However, this is prohibited or restricted by many payment processors, including Visa.

Benefits of a Digital Tip Jar

Digital tip jars aren’t just a trend – they’re a solution to a modern business challenge. They provide a seamless and hassle-free way for customers to show their appreciation for excellent service. But their advantages go beyond convenience. Digital tip jars can significantly impact your business’s bottom line, boost employee morale, and improve customer service.

Increased Tips

Digital tip jars often lead to an increase in tips. With more and more people going cashless, having a digital gratuity option allows more customers to tip, and the ease of tipping digitally often results in larger tip amounts.

This benefit is particularly advantageous for businesses in the service industry where tips contribute significantly to staff income. Higher tips can lead to happier staff and less employee turnover. 

Improved Customer Experience

In many industries, tipping forms part of the overall customer experience. When customers find every aspect of their interaction with your business easy and convenient, it contributes to their overall satisfaction and increases their likelihood of returning.

Increased Transparency

When you set up a digital tip jar for your employees, all tips are tracked and recorded, eliminating any disputes or confusion about how much was received. It also eliminates the chances of tip theft or discrepancies and the need for you to stock a cash drawer to help employees make change for tips.

Having a clear record of tips can also help with managing employee performance. By tracking the amount and frequency of tips, businesses can identify their top-performing employees and reward them accordingly.

What Kinds of Businesses Should Use Digital Tip Jars

Digital tip jars are a game-changer for any business where employees rely on tips as a significant portion of their income. Here’s a look at what types of businesses can benefit from incorporating digital tip jars:

  • Bars/Restaurants: Servers and bartenders at bars and restaurants often rely heavily on tips. Digital tip jars make it easy for customers to tip, even if they are paying with a card or mobile payment. They also ensure that employees receive their tips immediately, rather than having to wait for cash-outs or paychecks.
  • Hotels: Hotel employees like bellboys, housekeepers, and concierge staff often receive tips as a token of guest appreciation. A digital tip jar allows guests to tip without the need for spare change or cash.
  • Valets: A digital tip jar makes the process of tipping valets seamless, eliminating the awkwardness when customers don’t have cash on hand.
  • Pet Groomers: Many pet owners appreciate the services of pet groomers, and a digital tip jar allows them to reward good service easily.
  • Car Washes: Employees at car washes often go the extra mile to ensure cars are spotless, making them prime candidates for tip-based income. Digital tip jars streamline this process.
  • Tours/Events: Tour guides and event staff often provide exceptional service that warrants a tip. A digital tip jar allows customers to tip these individuals easily, regardless of the payment method they used for the tour or event.

How to Get the Most from Using a Digital Tip Jar

  • Promote Digital Tipping: A digital tip jar won’t do much if nobody knows about it. Start by communicating its presence to your customers. Use signage, menu mentions, or verbal reminders from staff to encourage customers to tip digitally.
  • Train Your Staff: Your employees are on the front lines of promoting a digital tip jar to customers. Make sure they know how it works and the benefits it offers, so they can confidently explain the system to customers.
  • Offer Multiple Payment Options: Different customers are comfortable with different modes of payment. Ensure your digital tip jar accepts a wide variety of payment methods, from credit cards to mobile payment apps, to cater to all your customers’ preferences.
  • Ensure Compliance: Make sure your digital tip jar system is not surcharging customers as this can lead to problems with payment processors. Regularly review your compliance status to avoid unforeseen issues.

Staying Compliant with a Digital Tip Jar

While digital tip jars offer a host of benefits, it’s important to use them properly.

Adherence to State Laws

Each state has its own set of laws pertaining to tips, including how tips are taxed, who can receive tips, and how tips can be distributed. It’s crucial to ensure your digital tip jar adheres to the specific laws of the state(s) in which your business operates.

Compliance with Payment Processor Rules

Digital tip jars are often facilitated by third-party payment processors. These processors usually have their own set of rules and requirements, which businesses need to abide by. Some processors may have specific policies about how tips are processed and recorded. For example, digital tip jars that surcharge customers on debit card transactions or more than 3% of the tip on credit transactions violate Visa network rules. As a result the merchants run a high risk of Visa turning them off their processing network.

Following Tax Regulations

Tip income is taxable. Digital tip jars track and record all tips, making it easier for businesses and employees to report tip income accurately. However, how this income is reported may vary depending on the tipping platform you use and the flow of funds from customers to staff. Check with your accountant to make sure you report tips properly.

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Under the FLSA, tips are considered the sole property of the tipped employee. While tip pooling is permitted in some cases, employers must follow strict guidelines. A digital tip jar needs to be set up in such a way that it adheres to these regulations.

Using Kickfin as a Digital Tip Jar

We’re proud to say that we’re one of the most popular cashless tipping options available on the market. We offer a flexible platform for businesses to collect and manage employee tips, streamlining the process and ensuring that employees receive their tips quickly and easily.

Here are some things you should focus on when you’re looking for a digital tipping solution for your employees:

  • Easy Set-Up: We help business owners set up cashless tipping in minutes with no technical skills required. 
  • Multiple Payment Options: Customers should be able to tip using credit or debit cards, as well as popular mobile wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay.
  • Instant Tip Distribution: Employees should receive their tips immediately after a transaction is processed, eliminating the need for cash-outs or waiting for paychecks.
  • Customizable Tipping Options: You should be able to set up custom tipping options, such as percentage or dollar amount.
  • Real-Time Reporting: A digital tip jar should track tips and let you view real-time reports on employee tips.
  • Secure Transactions: When you’re collecting tips for employees, security is paramount. Any platform you consider should ensure all transactions are safe and secure.

Digital tip jars offer a convenient and efficient way for businesses to manage employee tips, making it easier for customers to show their appreciation while also ensuring that employees receive their tips promptly. With platforms like Kickfin, implementing a digital tip jar has never been easier. Schedule a demo with our team to learn how digital tipping can motivate your employees and improve your customers’ experience.

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What if we told you that Kickfin’s built-in tip calculation feature could complete all of your end-of-shift check-out duties in less than a minute? Seriously — all of that work can be cut down to under a minute when you ditch cash. 

Kickfin’s tip calculation product eliminates time spent on calculating tip outs to bartenders and bussers or fairly dividing tip pools among servers, turning even the most complex tip policies into a one-click process. 

As we partner with more restaurants to bring their gratuity management into the future, we see their unique needs and build new features into our platform to solve their problems. Check out a few of our latest features that will make your restaurant even more efficient. 

Splitting Large Party Tips 

If your restaurant often hosts large parties, you know that the tip share can get confusing. Say one server is taking care of a party of 40 with a bartender assigned to only make drinks for that party. Meanwhile, the server has a few other two-top tables that are getting drinks from the main service bar. At the end of the night, how do you ensure that the large-party bartender gets their fair share of the tip out (without spending an hour on your phone calculator)? 

Kickfin can now automate that process for you, alleviating questions from your event bartender and saving time and effort on the part of your managers. 

More Integrations 

Kickfin is partnering with your POS system to integrate seamlessly with your existing restaurant tech. Already, we’re serving Toast customers through our integration — and your POS just might be up next. 

Kickfin integration users get access to new product features first, like our new tip-out transparency tool. Your employees can log into their Kickfin accounts and see exactly how their tips have been split between team members, offering them full transparency into your tip policy in action.

Manager Tips 

We’re always listening to feedback to improve the Kickfin experience, and this one goes out to all of our restaurant partners who asked us to streamline the manager tip reallocation process.

>>Learn more about managers & tipping laws

In most cases, managers are not allowed to earn tips since they are salaried employees. But we all know that managers often step in and take care of tables to help servers get out of the weeds. Well-meaning guests will most likely leave a tip, not knowing that the manager technically can’t accept them — so where does that money go?

Kickfin now features a default pool, where tips “paid” to a manager are automatically redistributed to tipped staff based on your restaurant’s tip policy. 

Improved Labor Data Accuracy

We all know how easy it is for an employee to forget to clock out after a long shift. And sure, they aren’t going to get paid for a 16-hour overnight shift, but when payday comes around, those extra hours create a nightmare for your payroll team. 

With Kickfin, all employees are required to be clocked out in order to finalize payments — so you’ll catch the labor data mistake long before your payroll team has to sort it out. 

Even Better Security 

We’re committed to protecting you and your employees’ hard-earned money, so we’re adding an extra layer of security for certain transactions. You can now enable double approval of payments that meet certain conditions:

  • First payment for new employees
  • Employees getting their first payout in X number of days
  • Employees receiving more than X payouts in a 24-hour period. 

With these extra guardrails in place, you can always be sure that the right money is going to the right person. Reach out to our support team to configure your custom security measures.

Using Kickfin is a win-win for operators, managers, and employees alike. Restaurateurs save on cash delivery and labor costs, managers shave hours off their workload, and servers have the same instant payment that they’re used to — without the hassle and uncertainty of cash. 

Want to learn more about Kickfin? Let us show you the ropes with a demo

You heard it here first: 2024 is the year of integrations. 

In an effort to make Kickfin even more user-friendly and adaptable for our partners, we’re working with restaurant tech leaders to integrate our tip management solution with their existing systems. 

First up — Toast! A trailblazer for cloud-based restaurant management technology, Toast is a favorite POS system for restaurants, food trucks, and bars. You probably know them best for being the first to create handheld POS devices, drastically changing the entire restaurant ecosystem. To make life easier for their customers, Toast partnered with Kickfin to create an integration that makes tip pooling, tip distribution, and calculation smoother. 

As restaurant tech innovators ourselves, this partnership is the perfect fit for Kickfin. 

Our goal at Kickfin is always to save time for managers, prevent loss for operators, and create more financial freedom for hospitality employees through pioneering technology that digitizes many of the analog processes that the restaurant industry is built on. 

As a member of the Toast Partner Ecosystem, we’ll be able to deliver our product to Toast customers and modernize their tip management systems with ease. Using technology that they’re already familiar with, Toast customers can reap the benefits of Kickfin with minimal ramp-up upon implementation.

“No two restaurants split tips the same way, but invariably, it takes too long and involves too much risk,”  said Justin Roberts, the co-CEO of Kickfin. “This integration allows for the utmost customization with a near-zero learning curve — truly the best of both worlds for restaurants that want to save time, reduce labor costs and make life easier for their team.”

And one of their partners is already enjoying the ROI with Kickfin. Bar Louie takes great pride in making tip distribution equitable for all of their employees, so they rely on a complex tip pooling system to ensure fair pay. Prior to using Kickfin, managers at each of their 60 locations spent 45 minutes at the end of every shift to make calculations and divvy out funds to all of their servers. Now, they’ve streamlined their tip-out process with Kickfin — and managers are doing the same work in less than a minute! That’s an annual average of 15,000 hours saved across their entire chain. 

>> Hear more Kickfin success stories

After implementing Kickfin, managers can spend their time on what matters most: delivering excellent customer service. That means more table touches, more support for your staff, and more time to focus on server training. 

With managers spending more time on the floor (instead of counting cash in the back), you’ll see better customer reviews, better service, and increased sales — all from digitizing your tip-outs with Kickfin.

We’re excited about our new partnership with Toast and the opportunity to make digital tipping a reality for their customers. For restaurants who aren’t using Toast, don’t worry! We look forward to providing similar integrations across the restaurant tech industry.  

Want to see these results for yourself? Find out how to become a Kickfin integration partner or check out a demo of our platform.

No growing pains here! 

We’re thrilled to announce that Inc. listed Kickfin in their list of the top 10 fastest growing companies in the Southwest. (In fact, we earned the #1 spot in the software category and were listed as #9 overall!) We’re honored to be included alongside innovative companies that are making a big difference in our region. 

Inc. measured Kickfin’s growth from 2020 to 2022 — which wasn’t an easy time for the restaurant industry, to say the least. In spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic, restaurant concepts across the country embraced Kickfin’s technology. 

As a group, the 2024 Inc. honorees averaged 136% growth and created 17,606 new jobs over a two-year period. Individually, Kickfin grew by a whopping 1,304% (yes, really!).

We want to recognize and thank both our amazing customers and the Kickfin team for being part of our success story and allowing us to be a part of theirs. 

Our Customers

For years, restaurants manually calculated and paid out cash tips — despite the increasing hassle and liability those old-school methods entail. It’s not because operators are tech-averse; there simply wasn’t a good way to automate the process that didn’t create new friction or require new workarounds. 

That’s precisely why we developed Kickfin. Of course, we’re proud of what we built and the team behind it (more on that below). But we owe a great deal of our success to the customers who trusted us enough to give Kickfin a shot — especially those early adopters who are now some of our longest-standing customers.

There’s a leap of faith involved when you partner with a vendor and layer in new technology, particularly when it impacts something as important and sensitive as how you pay your people.  We don’t take that lightly, and we are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve each and every customer who’s been on this journey with us.

>> Hear from our customers about their experiences with Kickfin

Our Team 

Every person on our team wholeheartedly believes in our mission and vision for the future. In short: we’re here to make the tip management process insanely easy for everyone so that paying out your people is (almost!) as great as getting paid. 

As backstory: Our co-founders, Brian and Justin, came up with the idea for Kickfin while dining out together and noticing that an armored car was dropping off cash. They asked why a restaurant would need a cash delivery when most patrons pay by card; the manager explained the cash was needed to pay out tips at the end of the shift. The inefficiency (and expense, and risk…) of that process was a lightbulb moment for Brian and Justin.

They set out to build a team who not only understood the problem, but could think critically and creatively about a solution — and bring it to life. 

From sales and marketing to product and support, every Kickfin employee has had a hand in the growth and success of our company, thanks to their passion for our purpose and their commitment to being best in class.

We’re proud of what we’ve achieved thus far, and we’re excited to continue collaborating with our customers, innovating on their behalf, and taking Kickfin to the next level together. Onward and upward!

It’s no secret that tax season is confusing and stressful, especially when you work in the hospitality industry. Many restaurant employees — whether they’re newbies or seasoned pros — aren’t exactly sure what’s required when it comes to reporting their income and filing taxes. There tends to be a lot of misconceptions particularly when it comes to reporting on tips received.

Maybe your employees are asking questions, or maybe you have a hunch that they should be asking questions. If that’s the case, we’ve taken the liberty of answering a few FAQs that your staff might find helpful. (Obligatory disclaimer: Of course, this is not intended to be tax, legal or accounting advice, and it’s always best to point them in the direction of a certified tax pro if they need help!). 

1. Do I have to report my tips to the IRS? 

Short answer: yes. 

Employees are required to report all income, including tips received while working at a restaurant, on their tax returns. This includes cash tips, credit card tips, and tips received via electronic payment platforms. 

Accurately reporting your income, including the tips you’ve earned, ensures that you avoid penalties and legal issues. But it’s not just about ensuring “Uncle Sam” gets his due; it also behooves you to avoid underreporting your earnings. More on that in a minute…

To make things easier, it’s advisable to keep detailed records of your tips to ensure accurate reporting come tax time. (If you’re a Kickfin user, of course, that’s easy to do!)

These days, you probably receive tips from customers in one of two ways: either they add a tip via credit card when they pay the bill, or they’ll leave a cash tip. Here’s what to know about reporting credit card tips and cash tips to the IRS

Reporting credit card tips

Most restaurants use POS systems to run their front-of-house operations. When customers leave tips on credit cards, they’re getting tracked in the POS and reported to the IRS by your employer. As a result, those tips are going to be included on the W-2 or 1099 that your employer gives you.

That’s because your employer is responsible for paying taxes on your tip earnings, too. In addition to paying payroll taxes, employers are required to withhold income taxes, Social Security taxes, and Medicare taxes on those employee tips, just as they would on other forms of employee compensation. They must keep accurate records of all tips reported by employees and include those amounts when filing employment tax returns.

(Keep in mind: this is the case for all tips left on credit cards, no matter how your employer is paying out those tips — cash, digitally, paycard or payroll. In other words, even if you’re leaving your shift with a wad of cash in your wallet, the IRS is well aware that you earned those tips, assuming your customers are primarily paying with credit cards.)

What’s more: because cash tips are less common and POS data is readily available, the IRS collects income information based on the credit card tips you input through their SITCA program. So, there’s really no way around reporting credit card tips to the IRS, and you’ll be liable for income tax on those tips. 

>> Learn more about SITCA and tip reporting

Reporting cash tips

This is where things can get a little muddy. 

It’s been common practice in the restaurant industry to under-report cash tips (or not report them at all). Technically, this is illegal. 

Bottom line: Employees are required to report all tips received when you file your taxes, including cash tips that were not run through your restaurant’s POS. Again, if you don’t accurately report your tip earnings, you could face financial and/or legal penalties. 

2. Does it affect my employer (and will they care?) if I under report my cash tips? 

Most restaurants are using the tip credit to decrease their monthly labor costs — so under reported tips could cause them some problems. 

Your employer’s biggest concern here is making sure that you earn at least minimum wage with the addition of your tips. If the majority of your tips are coming from credit cards, those are already automatically reported through your POS system, and your employer can track them for compliance purposes. But if you’re the rare server who earns more cash these days, then under reporting tips could cause a big spike in labor costs for your employer. 

In short, your employer probably won’t care if you don’t report all of your cash tips, but there are some serious reasons why you should…

3. What happens to me if I under report my cash tips? 

Leaving those cash tips untaxed might give you more freedom in the short run, but it could affect your future financial security. 

  1. You run the risk of being audited. No, it’s not super likely, but there’s always a chance that the IRS may be suspicious of your reported sales compared to your reported tips. This discrepancy could cost you in the long run.

  2. Unemployment and disability payments are based on wages. If you’re under-reporting your tips, it could hurt you if you ever need to rely on unemployment or disability (which many restaurant employees had to do during the pandemic). With your income artificially decreased, you’ll have to live off of much less than you’re actually owed.

  3. It may be harder to make investments in your future. We know great servers who are raking in the cash… but when you’re ready to make a major financial move, you might not have the documentation to back it up. For example, you might love a house that is technically in your budget, but without proof of your entire income, you might not qualify for a sizable enough home loan or be able to prove that you make three times the rent.

4. How does my tip reporting affect my taxes? 

Ultimately, how much you report in tips will determine how much you owe in taxes — that’s kind of the whole point of reporting your income. The more you report, the higher your tax liability. 

5. Why do I owe taxes every year? Aren’t they supposed to be withheld from my pay? 

They are — but your hourly wage probably isn’t enough to cover your entire tax responsibilities. You might remember picking up several $0 paychecks throughout the year. 

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: many financial experts say that it’s actually better to owe taxes when you file. That means you had more freedom to invest throughout the year, and that you weren’t offering the government a loan that they have to pay back in April. 

But we get it. That big tax refund is way more fun to see hit your bank account, and you might not be prepared to pay up if you owe. If you’re afraid that you’ll owe taxes (or panicking about where you’re going to get the money to pay them), here’s what you can do to ease your burden. 

  • Set taxes aside each week. Even though you’re walking out with tips in hand (or in your bank account), that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be taxed eventually. Each week, count up your tips and set 10-15% aside to save for tax season. If you have extra money leftover — take a vacation!

  • Explore write offs and deductions. Did you pay for your own uniform? Or for a safe alcohol service course? Are credit card fees taken out of your tips? All of these are deductions that you can use to reduce how much you owe.

  • Keep precise records. You’ll need to know how much you spent on work-related expenses and will need to back it up with documentation. If your employer is using Kickfin, your account is a great source of truth for all of your tip payout information. 

All of this reporting and recordkeeping can feel overwhelming — especially for servers who can’t remember how much cash they left with last night, let alone a year ago. Make sure your employees have all the tools they need to make smart financial decisions. Check out how Kickfin’s reporting can make life easier for managers and servers alike.

See Kickfin in action!