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The dividend payout ratio is one of the most important metrics income-seeking investors can use to assess dividend stocks. By measuring the percentage of earnings a company distributes to its shareholders, the payout ratio offers evidence not only about which companies may be paying out an unsustainably large share of earnings, but also about which companies could increase their quarterly distributions the most.

With this in mind, I ran a screen to find the five big bank stocks with the highest dividend payout ratios over the past 12 months: New York Community Bancorp (NYSE:NYCB), BB&T (NYSE:BBT), Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), Fifth Third Bancorp (NASDAQ:FITB), and U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB). Many of these banks won't come as a surprise, as Wells Fargo, BB&T, and U.S. Bancorp have long been known as particularly shareholder-friendly businesses, distributing as much of their earnings as reasonably feasible.

To see exactly where these five bank stocks rank in terms of the dividend payout ratio, simply scroll through the brief slideshow below -- a table with the raw numbers follows it.

18 Big Banks Ranked by Dividend Payout Ratio:

Bank

Dividend Payout Ratio (TTM)

New York Community Bank

89.60%

BB&T

39.73%

Wells Fargo

37.33%

Fifth Third Bancorp

36.05%

U.S. Bancorp

34.14%

Regions Financial

33.27%

JPMorgan Chase

32.43%

State Street

32.20%

Huntington Bancshares

31.37%

PNC Financial Services

30.54%

Bank of America

29.27%

Bank of New York Mellon

28.70%

Morgan Stanley

27.91%

KeyCorp

27.80%

SunTrust Banks

26.09%

Capital One Financial

20.07%

Goldman Sachs Group

18.88%

Citigroup

7.21%

Data source: YCharts.com.

John Maxfield has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Wells Fargo. The Motley Fool has the following options: short January 2016 $52 puts on Wells Fargo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.