10 Simples Rules for Splitting the Check (Without Being a Jerk)

Keep friendships intact with our essential rules for dividing the bill.
Updated April 9, 2024
Fact checked
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It can be fun to go out with friends to a restaurant, but what do you do when it’s time to pay the bill?

If you are trying to keep more cash in your wallet, you don’t want to pay more than your fair share. Here are some tips everyone should follow to make splitting the check easier.

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Choose a restaurant everyone can afford

georgerudy/Adobe friends toasting wine bottles at pub

Going out for a nice dinner at an expensive restaurant can be fun, but there's a time and place for that.

If you're going to eat out with a big group of friends, make sure you choose a place that's within everyone's budget.

It's better to recommend a lower-cost restaurant everyone can afford rather than put some of your companions in an awkward position when the bill arrives.

Be upfront about what you want to spend

Kzenon/Adobe friends enjoying party at asian restaurant

Don't forget to be honest about your own budget as well. If you can't afford the restaurant some of your friends prefer, speak up.

True friends will understand your situation and accommodate your needs. The important thing is spending time together, not where you go.

Let your server know right away

cherryandbees/Adobe couple paying bill at restaurant

You'll make life much easier for your server by telling them you want to split the check immediately.

Don't spring this news at the last moment. That just creates unnecessary headaches.

Consider adding a little extra to the tip to cover any additional work your server might have to do to split bills.

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Don’t overdo the split

Impact Photography/Adobe chef preparing steak at restaurant

Show a little courtesy and keep the splitting on the smaller side. Splitting a big check into four smaller ones isn’t difficult for servers. Splitting the check into a dozen smaller checks is a different matter.

Keep your dining companions in mind when ordering

Davide Angelini/Adobe friend at outdoor bbq party

If you agree to split the check, don’t view it as an opportunity to order the most expensive thing on the menu.

Instead, try to keep your costs reasonable. This is especially important if you know one or more of your dinner companions are struggling financially.

And if you want that expensive dish or glass of wine, maybe make up for it by covering more of the tip.

Remember the tip

VadimGuzhva/Adobe girl paying barman

Speaking of tipping, don’t forget that you have to decide who will handle this part of the evening’s costs. Are you going to split the tip as well?

Make sure you and your companions decide how to handle this when discussing how to split the bill.

Pay for that special someone

Monkey Business/Adobe waitress serving champagne to friends

If you're celebrating a friend’s birthday or a co-worker’s retirement, don’t ask that person to help split the bill.

Instead, talk to the rest of the dinner party about how you want to cover the cost of that special someone’s meal.

Bring cash

seanlockephotography/Adobe server finding gratuity on table

Bring cash if you know ahead of time that you'll be splitting the check. It can be easier to use cash when splitting both the bill and the tip.

Don’t forget the tax

SASITHORN/Adobe woman keeping tips in bill book

It's easy to forget about taxes. But they're part of your cost, so you'll need to account for them when splitting the bill.

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Don’t take the pen

Friends Stock/Adobe man calling waiter at restaurant

Once you've figured out how to split the check and everyone is happy, depart from the restaurant on a high note by leaving the pen behind.

The last thing your server needs to worry about on a busy night is where their pen went. Leaving the pen on the table instead of viewing it as a freebie is simply classy.

Bottom line

Cultura Creative/Adobe happy african american friends having lunch

Splitting checks can be difficult. But if you and your friends are all trying to get ahead financially, it’s important that everyone pays their fair share.

Following the tips on this list will help ensure that everyone leaves the table with warm memories rather than hard feelings.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.

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