bartender speaking in car with caption 'Bartender hack for declined cards' (l) man paying tab with card at bar (c) bartender speaking in car (r)

Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock @michellebellexo/TikTok (Licensed) Remix by Caterina Cox

‘They can easily dispute this’: Bartender shares hack for getting money from customers whose cards decline after they walk on tab

'Banker here. People do that with gas stations all the time.'


Nina Hernandez


Posted on Sep 19, 2023

A bartender has gone viral on TikTok after sharing a hack for getting money from customers whose credit cards decline after they walk out on their tabs.

The video features TikToker Michelle (@michellebellexo), who says she is frustrated by people who rack up large bar tabs knowing that they don’t have sufficient funds in their accounts. Luckily, Michelle, a bartender who often posts tips and tricks of the trade, has a solution.

“Bartender hack for what to do when someone walks out on their tab and their card declines,” she writes in the caption.

@michellebellexo Bartender hack for what to do when someone walks out on their tab and their card declines #declined #walkedtabs #bartender #serviceindustry #carddeclined #bartenderhack ♬ original sound – Michelle Charlotte Bartender

“So you know whenever you get to the end of the night and you’re closing everybody out that walked out on their tabs, and somebody’s card declines?” she says in the video. “OK, try running it for $1, or whatever your minimum is.”

The bartender uses a hypothetical scenario to illustrate the hack. If a card is declined for a $100 tab, Michelle recommends charging the card again for $1. If that goes through, the bartender says, “Leave yourself a $119 tip to cover their $100 tab, plus the 20% gratuity that you add for walked tabs, most of the time that tip is forced through and there’s no way out of paying it—it like forces them into the negative.”

“So $99 of that $119 tip is gonna go to the bar to cover that $100 tab that they had, right? $20 is for you,” she says.

However, there is one downside to the bartender’s hack. “You’re gonna have to pay taxes on that $119 tip because we have to claim our credit card tips,” Michelle adds. 

She ends the video with one final warning. “If you ever do this, make sure you save the receipt. When they dispute it—cause they’re gonna, probably … Save the receipt so you can explain to the bank what happened and you’re gonna win,” she says.

The video has amassed 5.3 million views since it was uploaded to the social media platform. In the comments section, some viewers expressed their agreement with the bartender’s hack. Others weren’t as impressed.

“This is so smart!! Hopefully these kind of people see this and learn something lol,” wrote a user. Michelle responded, “I’m so tired of the people who think they can cheat the system.”

One commenter argued, “I would simply dispute the transaction with the bank. If the customer didn’t leave a $119 tip you can’t just call that a tip.” The bartender replied to defend her hack, saying, “It’s not a $119 tip. It’s paying your $100 tab and 20% gratuity for walking out on your tab WHICH THERE IS A SIGN FOR.”

Another echoed this sentiment, writing, “This is easily disputable & they will file a charge back,” to which the creator countered, “We won the last one.”

“Our system automatically pre-authorized for $25 and once they hit $20 it would then authorize for another $25 etc etc,” wrote someone else.

“Banker here. People do that with gas stations all the time. They go to the ones that only check for $1 and then let it overdraft their acct,” wrote another user.

Although some commenters seemed surprised that the bartender’s hack would work, this isn’t the first time someone has suggested it. An artist went viral earlier this week for sharing a “poor people hack” for overdrafting your account but avoiding bank fees. However, in this case the creator was covering a grocery bill and not a bar tab.

The Daily Dot reached out to Michelle via TikTok direct message for comment.

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*First Published: Sep 19, 2023, 3:04 pm CDT