Payouts matter. Money is near and dear to a company, and if it's willing to pay out a healthy dividend -- and keep growing that rate over the years -- it should be seen as a sign of confidence. A company hiking its distribution rate is one that's likely upbeat about its future earnings power. Readers of the Income Investor newsletter can certainly appreciate that kind of thinking.

Let's take a closer look at four companies that inched their payouts higher this past week.

We can start with Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). The software company wasn't even paying a dividend a couple of years ago, but now it's bent on sharing the wealth. Its quarterly dividend is growing from $0.09 a share to a dime. The Inside Value selection has fallen out of favor with growth stock investors and has turned to its massive war chest of greenbacks to buy back shares and pump up its yield.

Corus Entertainment (NYSE:CJR), a specialist in television programming for kids and adults, more than doubled the quarterly dividend on its non-voting shares to $0.215. The Canadian company, which also runs several radio and television stations, initially announced the increase back in July, but the beefier payout is taking place now.

Shareholders checking into Choice Hotels (NYSE:CHH) will also be checking out with a little more pocket change. The company behind hospitality bargain brands like Comfort Inn, Econo Lodge, and Quality Inn used to pay its investors $0.13 a share every three months. Now it will be $0.15 a share. That's something to sleep on, even if the yield is still a relatively modest 1.4%.

Then we have Apache (NYSE:APA). The oil and gas exploration company knows that it's coasting in a lucrative industry these days. Its quarterly dividend is growing to $0.15 a share from $0.10. The move shouldn't come as much of a surprise because Apache has pumped up its payout five times over the past five years.

Income Investor analyst Mathew Emmert has often singled out companies that are committed to growing their distributions with market-thumping results.

Want to see what Mathew's liking these days? Go ahead and give his newsletter service a shot with a 30-day trial subscription. Who knows? Maybe the next thing to 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. He is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.The Fool has a disclosure policy.