4 Dividend Plays for Bank Investors

Since the financial crisis, U.S.-based banks have slashed their dividends and many foreign banks have done likewise. But for those willing to look, there are still banks rewarding their shareholders with strong dividends.

Spanish banking

By Junius (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

With high unemployment and a troubled economy, Spain is the last place many investors want to store their money. But Banco Santander (NYSE: SAN  ) offers a rare combination of diversified banking exposure alongside a massive dividend yield.

Besides its Spanish operations, Banco Santander is one of the largest banks in Latin America, as well as having a major presence in several other European countries, including the U.K. and Germany. The bank has even moved into U.S. operations with a northeast presence.

This large geographic footprint helps Banco Santander to pay an impressive 8.5% dividend -- among the highest in the banking industry. Non-Spanish shareholders will have to pay Spain's 21% dividend withholding tax, but U.S. residents can claim a foreign tax credit to avoid being taxed twice.

Australian banking
Unlike the banking systems of many other developed countries, Australia's banking system held up remarkably well through the financial crisis putting major Australian banks in a good position to pay above average dividends today.

Despite its name, National Australia Bank (NASDAQOTH: NABZY  ) has expanded far beyond Australia and into New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. Additionally, the bank has used its geographical proximity to become a presence in Asia and tap emerging markets growth.

National Australia Bank offers a dividend yield of 5.7% and a record of raising its dividend each year over the past few years. For U.S. residents, a 15% dividend withholding tax may apply, but if the bank issues a franking credit (whether the bank can issue this is determined by how much corporate tax it pays) the dividend is exempt from Australian withholding tax.

British banking
Britain's banking system was hit hard by the financial crisis with some major banks still remaining under partial state ownership today. But HSBC (NYSE: HSBC  ) managed to get back up and running after suffering form the immediate effects of the crisis.

By Andrevruas (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

Originally started in the mid-19th century to provide trade financing, today's HSBC is a true worldwide bank with a presence in 74 countries. The bank makes its goal quite clear on its website: "Our aim is to be acknowledged as the world's leading international bank."

With a dividend of 4.6%, HSBC easily tops its U.S.-based rivals and allows investors to get a significant yield from a major global bank. The U.K. also does not withhold any of the dividend so U.S.-based investors can get the entire payment and choose whether to reinvest it or use it to fund everyday expenses.

U.S.-based bank preferred stocks
For investors looking for dividends and willing to give up the upside that accompanies common stock ownership, many major U.S.-based bank preferred stocks offer decent yields in the 6% to 7% range.

Keep in mind that preferred stocks do not have the same potential to gain value as common stocks, but investors that are income and safety focused may want to take a look at these investments.

Dividend banks
The financial crisis has made finding solid bank dividend stocks a lot harder but Banco Santander, National Australia Bank, and HSBC all offer large dividends and diversification beyond their home countries.

For income investors, bank dividends are still alive and well but you have to know which banks to look for.

Top dividend stocks for the next decade
The smartest investors know that dividend stocks simply crush their non-dividend paying counterparts over the long term. That's beyond dispute. They also know that a well-constructed dividend portfolio creates wealth steadily, while still allowing you to sleep like a baby. Knowing how valuable such a portfolio might be, our top analysts put together a report on a group of high-yielding stocks that should be in any income investor's portfolio. To see our free report on these stocks, just click here now.


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