Dear Heidi: Who pays for coffee? On a date? At a business meeting? While networking?
The short answer is, the host pays. Whomever extended the invitation generally pays the bill.
If you have been invited on a date, then the social code of Host Pays holds. However, if you want to contribute; perhaps it was a very expensive restaurant, you ordered the most expensive item (which is never a good idea), or you simply prefer to pay for yourself, then go ahead and pay.
If this is the case, it’s usually best if you can establish this prior to the bill coming to avoid any awkwardness or misunderstandings.
When you are networking, you are making connections that will hopefully help you now or in the future. So, the social code works here too; the host pays. If I have asked someone to meet for a coffee, or lunch in hopes of adding them to my network, then I pay.
However, there are exceptions, and common sense and sensibilities come into play. If two colleagues or friends decide to meet for a coffee, then it’s completely reasonable to each pay for themselves.