There's no official definition of a high-yield stock. However, most investors would classify it as one with a dividend yield higher than a common benchmark such as the S&P 500 Index or 10-year U.S. Treasury note. In 2021, the dividend yield on the S&P 500 has averaged less than 1.5%, while the 10-year note has bounced between 1.25% and 1.75%. Thus, many investors would consider any dividend above those levels as high-yield.

That baseline measurement aside, investors shouldn't buy a stock because of its dividend yield alone. They need to make sure that the dividend payments are sustainable. It should be a high-quality company with durable cash flow, a strong balance sheet, and visible growth potential. With that caveat in mind, here are 20 high-yield dividend stocks listed in alphabetical order.

20 high-yield dividend stocks to watch 

High-yield dividend stock

Ticker

Annual dividend amount

Dividend yield

AbbVie

(NYSE:ABBV)

$5.20

4.4%

AvalonBay Communities

(NYSE:AVB)

$6.36

2.8%

Brookfield Infrastructure

(NYSE:BIP)(NYSE:BIPC)

$2.04

3.6%

Brookfield Renewable

(NYSE:BEP)(NYSE:BEPC)

$1.22

3%

Consolidated Edison

(NYSE:ED)

$3.10

4%

Crown Castle International

(NYSE:CCI)

$5.32

2.7%

Digital Realty

(NYSE:DLR)

$4.64

2.9%

Enbridge

(NYSE:ENB)

$3.34

6.8%

Enterprise Products Partners

(NYSE:EPD)

$1.80

8%

Gilead Sciences

(NASDAQ:GILD)

$2.84

3.9%

Intel

(NASDAQ:INTC)

$1.39

2.6%

Johnson & Johnson

(NYSE:JNJ)

$4.24

2.4%

Medical Properties Trust

(NYSE:MPW)

$1.12

5.6%

3M

(NYSE:MMM)

$5.92

3%

Pfizer

(NYSE:PFE)

$1.56

3.1%

Procter & Gamble

(NYSE:PG)

$3.48

2.4%

Realty Income

(NYSE:O)

$2.83

3.9%

Verizon Communications

(NYSE:VZ)

$2.51

4.5%

Walgreens Boots Alliance

(NASDAQ:WBA)

$1.91

3.9%

W.P. Carey

(NYSE:WPC)

$4.20

5.3%

Data source: Company websites. Dividend information as of Aug. 17, 2021.

Here's a brief look at what makes each of these high-yield dividend stocks look like attractive buys in 2021.

1. AbbVie

Drugmaker AbbVie has had an excellent dividend track record since its spinoff from Abbott Labs (NYSE:ABT) in 2013. From its inception through the middle of 2021, AbbVie has increased its payout by a whopping 225%, carrying on the dividend growth legacy inherited from Abbott. Both companies are Dividend Aristocrats, a status reserved for companies that have increased their dividends for at least 25 consecutive years.

Although AbbVie will lose its patent-protected exclusivity for top-selling drug Humira in 2023,  the rest of its lineup, combined with the closing of its transformative acquisition of Allergan (NYSE:AGN) in 2020, puts it in excellent shape to keep the dividend income flowing and growing. 

2. AvalonBay Communities

As one of the largest apartment owners in the country, AvalonBay benefits from collecting steady rental income to support its high-yielding payout. The real estate investment trust (REIT) also boasts a top-tier financial profile, giving it the flexibility to continue expanding its apartment portfolio by developing and acquiring new communities.

While the company hasn't increased its payout every year, AvalonBay has increased its dividend at a 5% annual rate since its initial public offering (IPO) in 1994. With demand for apartments continuing to grow, this REIT should be able to keep increasing its dividend in the coming years.

3. Brookfield Infrastructure

Brookfield Infrastructure operates a diversified portfolio of infrastructure businesses focused on utilities, transportationenergy midstream, and data. These businesses generate relatively stable cash flow to support its dividend.

Brookfield envisions increasing its dividend at a 5% to 9% annual rate over the long term, powered by the organic growth of its existing businesses and new acquisitions. It acquired a majority of Canada-based Inter Pipeline Ltd. in August 2021, which will likely serve as a growth catalyst for the next several years.

4. Brookfield Renewable

Brookfield Renewable is Brookfield Infrastructure's sibling, with both companies controlled by Brookfield Asset Management (NYSE:BAM). This Brookfield entity focuses on renewable energy, including hydroelectric, wind, solar, and energy storage facilities. Those assets generate steady cash flow backed by long-term power purchase agreements with utilities and other end-users, supporting Brookfield's high-yield dividend.

The company also expects to increase its payout at a 5% to 9% annual pace over the long term, powered by organic growth — including an extensive pipeline of new renewable energy development projects — plus additional acquisitions.

5. Consolidated Edison

Consolidated Edison, or ConEd, is an electric and gas utility focused on the New York City metro area. It's also the country's second-largest solar energy developer.

ConEd has an exceptional dividend track record. The Dividend Aristocrat has increased its payout for the past 46 consecutive years, which is the longest streak of any utility in the S&P 500 index. That trend probably won't end anytime soon, given its steady investment to expand its operations, including increased spending on renewable opportunities as the U.S. economy accelerates its shift toward cleaner energy sources.

6. Crown Castle International

Crown Castle is a REIT focused on owning communications infrastructure in the U.S., including cell towers, small cells, and fiber optic cable. This infrastructure is crucial to supporting the mobile industry's next-generation network: 5G. Crown Castle sees a decades-long opportunity to invest in new 5G-related infrastructure, which should support 7% to 8% annual dividend growth.

7. Digital Realty

Digital Realty is a REIT focused on operating data centers. The company has an excellent dividend history. It has increased its payout for the past 16 consecutive years at a 10% annual rate overall. That upward trend should continue, given the need for new infrastructure to support the explosive growth of data worldwide.

8. Enbridge

Canadian oil pipeline giant Enbridge has been an outstanding dividend stock over the years. It has paid dividends for more than 66 years, including expanding its payout in each of the past 26 years by a 10% compound annual rate. If Enbridge wasn't a Canadian company, it would qualify for Dividend Aristocrat status.

While the world is transitioning its fuel supply from oil to cleaner alternatives, Enbridge is adapting by investing in infrastructure to support natural gas projects and offshore wind farms. Those investments have the company on track to increase its cash flow per share by 5% to 7% per year through at least 2023, which should support continued dividend growth.

9. Enterprise Products Partners

Enterprise Products Partners ranks as one of the top players in the midstream oil and gas market. The master limited partnership (MLP) has increased its payout for more than 20 consecutive years.

While the company currently focuses on fossil fuels, it formed an evolutionary technology group in 2021 to pursue opportunities in energy transition. Those future investments should give Enterprise the fuel to continue increasing its dividend.

10. Gilead Sciences

Gilead Sciences pays one of the most attractive dividends in the biotechnology sector. The company has a solid dividend track record, increasing its payout every year since it started paying one in 2015. Its strong HIV franchise is the biotech's anchor.

However, Gilead has also been able to cash in on its antiviral treatment Remdesivir, one of the few approved treatments for COVID-19. It has several other promising drugs in the pipeline that should drive continued sales growth in the future.

11. Intel

Technology giant Intel has steadily increased its dividend over the years. While the chipmaker hasn't hiked its dividend every year, it has given investors a raise in most of the 27 years since it first started paying dividends. The company generates lots of cash, giving it the money to expand its business while returning billions to shareholders through share repurchases and dividends.

12. Johnson & Johnson

Healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson has increased its dividend for nearly 60 straight years, making it a Dividend King. The company has consistently paid an attractive and growing dividend by steadily developing new products that help improve global health. One of its latest breakthroughs is the only approved single-shot vaccine against COVID-19. The company's ability to play a leading role in improving health outcomes should continue expanding its sales and dividend.   

13. Medical Properties Trust

Medical Properties Trust is a REIT focused on owning hospitals. The company acquires hospitals from healthcare systems and leases them back to those operators. That strategy has enabled it to steadily increase its portfolio, cash flow, and dividend, with the latter expanding in each of the past eight years at a 5% compound annual rate. Medical Properties has a massive opportunity to acquire additional hospital properties, which should support continued dividend growth.

14. 3M

3M has been a phenomenal dividend stock. The industrial conglomerate has paid dividends for more than a century, including increasing its payout in each of the past 63 straight years. As such, it's also a Dividend King. Driving that steady growth has been the company's strategy of investing in new products, which have expanded its sales and enabled it to keep increasing its dividend.

15. Pfizer

Pfizer has paid dividends for more than 330 consecutive quarters. The pharmaceutical giant had planned to reduce its payout following the spinoff and merger of its Upjohn unit with Mylan in November 2020, forming a new entity named Viatris (NASDAQ:VTRS).

However, Pfizer opted to maintain its currently high-yielding payout due to its strong financial performance, which is partly driven by strong sales of its COVID-19 vaccine. With a third booster shot of that vaccine needed for most recipients and the potential for annual boosters after that, Pfizer should continue to generate plenty of cash to fund future dividends.

16. Procter & Gamble

Consumer staples giant Procter & Gamble has increased its dividend for 65 straight years, making it a Dividend King. That steady upward climb appears likely to continue. The company has an excellent track record of increasing its sales by acquiring and developing name-brand household products to meet consumers' needs.

17. Realty Income

Realty Income lives up to its name. The REIT, which pays its dividend monthly, has made more than 600 consecutive payments. Even better, it has increased its payout more than 100 times since its initial public offering in 1994, expanding it at a more than 4% compound annual rate. That adds up to more than 25 consecutive years, making it a Dividend Aristocrat.

Driving that growth has been a steady diet of acquisitions. Realty Income unveiled its largest purchase in 2021 by merging with fellow REIT Vereit (NYSE:VER) to create a $50 billion real estate behemoth. That deal gives it the scale to keep growing. 

18. Verizon Communications

Telecommunications giant Verizon has been a great income stock over the years. The company delivered its 14th consecutive annual dividend increase in 2021. Verizon should be able to continue increasing its dividend as it invests to transition its mobile network to 5G, thereby bringing faster data speeds to its customers.

19. Walgreens Boots Alliance

Pharmacy giant Walgreens has paid dividends for more than 88 years, expanding its payout in each of the past 46 and making it a Dividend Aristocrat. Driving that steady growth has been the company's ability to consistently increase its store count, which reached more than 21,000 worldwide in 2021. With the need for access to healthcare only increasing in the future, Walgreens should be able to continue expanding its operations and its dividend in the years to come.

20. W.P. Carey

W.P. Carey is a REIT that owns a diversified real estate portfolio. The company has an excellent dividend track record and has increased its payout each year since its IPO in 1998. Behind that steady growth has been W.P. Carey's ability to steadily expand its portfolio of cash-flowing commercial real estate. With a solid financial profile, the REIT has the flexibility to keep growing in the coming years.

Great income now, more later

All 20 of these dividend stocks offer an above-average yield, making them stand out in the current low-yield environment. Even better, each one has a solid track record of steadily increasing their dividend and showing no signs of stopping. Because of that, they're great income stocks to buy and hold for the long haul.