There are multiple metrics that income-seeking investors need to know, but the dividend payout ratio is one of the most important. By measuring the percentage of earnings that a company distributes to its shareholders, the payout ratio not only helps identify the companies that may be paying out an unsustainably large share of earnings, but also, the companies that could increase their quarterly distributions the most.

With this in mind, I ran a screen to find the five big-bank stocks with the lowest dividend payout ratios over the past 12 months: Citigroup (NYSE:C), Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), Capital One Financial (NYSE:COF), SunTrust Banks (NYSE:STI), and KeyCorp (NYSE:KEY). While the reasons why these five banks pay out a smaller share of their earnings than many of their counterparts vary -- for instance, SunTrust Banks and Citigroup are still recovering from the crisis, while Capital One Financial and Goldman Sachs have paid dividends for comparably short periods of time (and thus haven't had the opportunity to ramp their quarterly payouts up) -- the one thing they all have in common is the golden opportunity to grow their quarterly distributions by large margins over the coming years.

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.

 

The Nation's 18 Biggest Banks by Payout Ratio:

Bank

Dividend Payout Ratio (TTM)

New York Community Banc

89.60%

BB&T

39.73%

Wells Fargo

37.33%

Fifth Third Bancorp

36.05%

US 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 has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.