Anything that can help your bottom line looks attractive right now. But with many banks these days offering interest rates well below 1% on savings accounts, you have to seek out alternatives if you want to keep your payouts high.

Like most other businesses in this increasingly competitive climate, banks are vying for your business -- and doing whatever they can to get it. Wachovia (NYSE:WB), for example, is offering "Way2Save" accounts, which will pay you a 5% annual percentage yield for the first year, along with an end-of-the-first-year bonus of 5%, up to $300. Before it finally gave up the ghost, Washington Mutual (NYSE:WM) was offering a "Savings for Success" account in certain states, with attractive rates. One-year CDs are paying around 4.5% at some banks.

Can you do better?
Before you get too excited, remember that these attractive yields are offered for just the first year. Then it's back to the drawing board. If you really want solid income, dividend stocks could be a much better option, with yields that often endure -- or expand -- as long as their underlying companies are healthy and growing. Check out these recent yields:

Company

Dividend Yield

Pfizer (NYSE:PFE)

7.1%

Vodafone (NYSE:VOD)

8.9%

Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY)

6.0%

Host Hotels & Resorts (NYSE:HST)

5.8%

Masco (NYSE:MAS)

5.2%

Data from MSNMoney.com, as of Sept. 25, 2008.

With share prices currently down in the dumps, you'll see a lot of truly tempting yields these days. Some banks now sport yields greater than 10%. However tantalizing they may seem, these sky-high payouts could also be seriously risky. Many very high yields often prove unsustainable. Be smart about high yields, and pay attention to payout ratios.

You can also judge the merits of dividend stocks by examining the stability of their industry as a whole. Banks may be somewhat in limbo now, but companies that sell homebuilding and home-remodeling items are more reliable earners, especially once our economy regains its footing. Pharmaceutical companies can often be even surer of their expected income, since not taking medicine isn't really an option for most ailing people.

Once you buy into a strong dividend payer, you're likely to keep collecting its (usually growing) dividend for a long time. Take that to the bank!

For recommendations of promising dividend-payers, test-drive, for free, our Motley Fool Income Investor newsletter service, featuring many yields above 6%. Its picks are beating the market handily.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns no shares of any companies mentioned in this article. Pfizer and Masco are Motley Fool Income Investor picks. Pfizer is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Try our investing newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.