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June 14, 2021

Everything you need to know about splitting a dinner cheque

There may be no greater test of social will than when you’re out to eat with friends and it’s time to pay up.

You wouldn’t quite call it the world’s foremost source of anxiety, but there is plenty of seat-shuffling, eye-darting and general uneasiness when the meal is done.

Do you ask the waiter to split the cheque? Do you grab the whole tab and hope your friends get the next one? And what if your server brings one bill without you getting the chance to request it be separated?

It’s happened to us all, which is why Everyday Money presents everything you need to know about splitting a restaurant cheque.

By my count, and please offer counterpoints in the comments below, there are four ways to pay a restaurant tab between friends.

*Bing: How to determine how much to tip

1) Ask for separate cheques, or pay separate parts of the same cheque if just one is brought
2) Take turns paying, whereby one person takes the entire tab and another does the next time out
3) One diner pays on his/her Visa and the rest repay their share with cash
4) Split the cheque evenly

Each, of course, has their problems. If you split the cheque evenly, for instance, at least one person’s going to be left pissed ‘cause they only had one beer or their entrée was a few bucks less than someone else’s. Or if one person pays under the agreement another friend will pick up the next meal, oftentimes that solution gets a huge wrinkle when the exact group of people aren’t out together again (if another friend joins for the next time, how would fair payment work then?)

There may well be no one-off solution to splitting the bill, but there are a few tips you can take. Most experts suggest broaching the subject of separate cheques as early in the meal as you can – the best servers will ask for you, either when taking orders or when it’s time to take payment – or by requesting a modest split of the bill. If you fear looking like a cheapskate in being the one to ask for separate cheques, instead ask that two be brought over: one for the food, and one for the booze. This way, non-drinkers won’t be saddled with paying for pricy beers and wine at a restaurant.

And then there is geography. Each nation has its own customs for settling up a restaurant tab, so it’s best to familiarize yourself with the local tradition. For example, did you know in Italy the birthday boy/girl is the one who’s supposed to pick up the cheque?

How do you deal with splitting up a dinner bill?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...