You know what "Drip" investing is all about, right? It lets you invest in companies directly, thus completely or mostly bypassing your brokerage and its commission fees. It lets you invest small amounts, and it reinvests dividends you receive in additional shares (or fractions of shares). It's a great thing, in many ways, serving countless investors very well.

Increasingly, though, you can have your dividends reinvested without having to set up Drip accounts. That's because many brokerages are now offering dividend reinvestment.

Traditional Drip plans were extremely valuable in the past, and many investors benefited greatly from them. However, these days they're no longer so necessary, since many online discount brokerages are now offering dividend reinvestment -- along with commission rates that are significantly lower than they were a decade or two ago. When you consider some of the downsides of traditional Drips, such as excessive paperwork and difficulty tracking small purchases, you may want to look to a brokerage account instead. Some discount brokers now try to make purchase and sale tracking easier for their customers.

Changing brokerages
Of course, many people switch brokers from time to time, and you clearly won't want to lose valuable purchase and cost-basis data. Storing this kind of information elsewhere, such as in a program like Quicken or Microsoft Money, is a good idea. (Note that changing brokerages can be a very good thing to do -- the brokerage you're using may not be the best one for your needs. Spend a few minutes in our broker collection and read about how to find the right broker for you.)

Meanwhile, if you're interested in having your brokerage reinvest your dividends, you have several options. Schwab (NASDAQ:SCHW), E*Trade (NASDAQ:ETFC), T. Rowe Price (NASDAQ:TROW), and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) are just a few of the brokers offering dividend reinvestment in some form.

Reinvesting is powerful
Reinvesting dividends can be a powerful way to get wealthy. Here are some eye-opening examples from the folks at our Motley Fool Income Investor newsletter service, which tracks and recommends outstanding dividend-paying investments:

  • PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP): $2,000 invested in Pepsi 20 years ago is now worth more than $22,500.
  • Altria Group (NYSE:MO): $2,000 invested in the former Philip Morris in 1979 is worth just less than $350,000 today.
  • $2,000 in ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) in 1989 would now be worth over $24,000.

You can see just how powerful dividends can be -- even without adding a single penny to your original investment. Over time, you'll often find that your dividends grow so large that you'll earn more than your total original investment every year in dividends alone!

Sidestep the accounting
You can neatly sidestep the headache of record-keeping for reinvested dividends by having the reinvestment happen in a tax-advantaged account, such as a Roth IRA.

Or, simply let your dividend income accumulate in your brokerage account until you have enough cash to deploy into a new investment. This could be a new stock holding, or even a new batch of shares in an existing holding. In this situation, you're controlling how many batches of a stock you purchase, and you're more easily able to invest in other companies. This option will give you much of the benefit of reinvesting dividends, but with fewer tax hassles along the way.

For more on getting a broker that can help you invest easier, check out:

Check out our broker collection for more information about finding the best broker for dividend reinvestment.

This article was originally published on Sept. 24, 2007. It has been updated by Dan Caplinger, who owns shares of Altria. Schwab is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation. PepsiCo is a Motley Fool Income Investor pick. Try any of our investing services free for 30 days. The Fool is Fools writing for Fools.