Foolish investors should never take dividends for granted. Even now, as money-market yields are soaring -- and often making stocks' quarterly payouts look tiny in comparison -- the distributions matter. They are often a great indicator of how a company is doing, especially firms that are pumping up their dividends on the basis of heartier fundamentals. Here's a closer look at four of the companies that inched their payouts higher this past week.

Let's start with Best Buy (NYSE:BBY). A week after blowing away the market by reporting that quarterly earnings soared 38% higher, the consumer-electronics superstore chain also turned up the volume on its dividend policy. The Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation will start paying its shareholders $0.10 per share every three months, a 25% leap from its earlier payout.

The higher dividend makes sense. Best Buy is stocking the toys that everyone wants, like iPods and HD-ready television sets. Things are likely to only get better in the coming months, as the new Nintendo and PlayStation systems hit the market in the fall and the highly anticipated Windows Vista operating system fuels a wave of PC upgrades.

Also giving a dime about its investors, Winnebago (NYSE:WGO) will now be paying $0.10 a share as its quarterly dividend. That was just a penny higher than the RV giant paid before, but it's still a move in the right direction.

Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) was another hiker. The maker of defibrillators and pacemakers made its investors' hearts beat a little faster by rounding up its quarterly distribution in a major way. Starting with next month's dividend, the company will go from paying $0.09625 per share to a heartier $0.11.

Medtronic tries to pay 20% of its earnings back to its shareowners in the form of dividends. It's a tribute to the company's consistency that Medtronic has been able to do exactly that, and raise its dividend, every single year since 1978.

Finally, we have bebe stores (NASDAQ:BEBE). The hip retailer's new dividend may only be a nickel a share, but it marks a 25% improvement from its last payout rate.

Subscribers to our Income Investor newsletter can appreciate the companies sending more and more money to their investors. Analyst Mathew Emmert has often singled out companies that are committed to growing their distributions with market-thumping results.

Want to see what Mathew likes these days? Give his newsletter service a shot with a 30-day trial subscription. Who knows? Maybe the next thing that will get hiked will be your interest.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz pays attention to yield signs. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.The Fool has a disclosure policy. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.