Dividends are an important factor for many investors. Not only do they offer a better alternative than super-low interest rates on your savings account, they can be an important contributor to your portfolio performance over the long term – especially if you reinvest them.

Here are three of my favourite dividend shares right now:

Retail Food Group Limited (ASX: RFG) – yields 5.1%, fully franked

Retail Food Group (“RFG”) shares leapt 20% last week after strong GDP data reassured investors that an economy-wide slowdown wasn’t likely to hurt RFG in the near term. After last week’s rise, RFG shares trade on a trailing Price to Earnings (P/E) ratio of 15, around the market average, yet appear to offer better prospects than many other stocks.

Same-store sales growth has been positive across most of its franchises, and with the recent acquisition of Gloria Jean’s, RFG now has the brand power to launch an international expansion, with roughly half of forecast outlet openings to be in foreign countries in 2016.

Retail Food Group has a weighted average interest rate of 3.99%, meaning growth by acquisition comes at a very low cost, while strong cash flows provide ample buffer to cover debt payments. The key will be watching that new outlets deliver a decent return on investment, while existing franchises continue to perform. Coffee is a high-growth market however, and as it stands Retail Food Group looks well placed to grow its 5.1%, fully franked dividend.

G8 Education Ltd (ASX: GEM) – yields 6.6%, fully franked

G8 Education Ltd is a childcare centre operator that has grown primarily by acquisition in recent years, although unlike some other aggregators its acquisitions have been backed up by strong cash flow performance. After a titanic year of acquisitions in 2014, the 2015 financial year was more modest, with 44 new centres added, and guidance for another 50-150 to be purchased in 2016. The attraction of G8 is the semi-defensive demand for childcare, as well as the company’s carefully selected portfolio of centres, which are located in areas that underpin the company’s strong occupancy and like-for-like sales growth figures.

A key risk is exposure to the Australian economy, particularly employment and wages, as well as the fees charged for childcare which customers are sensitive to. G8 Education trades on a Price to Earnings (P/E) ratio of around 14, and its decent financial position, growth outlook, and 6.6% quarterly fully-franked dividend could be enough to convince investors to add the company to their portfolio.

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Motley Fool contributor Sean O'Neill owns shares of G8 Education Limited and Retail Food Group Limited. Unless otherwise noted, the author does not have a position in any stocks mentioned by the author in the comments below. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of Retail Food Group Limited. 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. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.