Public App Review [2021]: Community-Focused Investing & Commission-Free Trading

Is investing a better experience when you’re part of a community?
Last updated May 16, 2021 | By Matt Miczulski
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A recent Gallup Poll shows us that Americans are investing at the same levels as they have been since the 2008 financial crisis. Despite there being no significant change in the participation rate among individual investors in the past 10 years, the investing landscape continues to change. For one, most brokers no longer charge commission fees on trades. And then there’s the digital revolution. Investment apps continue to spring up, giving individual investors a convenient way to access the market and earn passive income.

Investment apps can be appealing to all sorts of investors. But how do you know which app is right for your style of investing?

In this review, we’ll take a look at the Public app. We’ll cover how investing with Public works, who it’s best for, and, as a fairly new company, how it stacks up against other investment platforms. If at the end of this review you feel Public isn’t right for you, we’ll give you a couple of alternatives to consider.

But first, what is the Public app?

In this article

What is Public?

Public is a brokerage and social investing app focused on giving a broader audience of investors greater access to the stock market. Through Public, users can buy full shares or fractional shares of stock or popular exchange-traded funds for as little as $1 without commission fees. And as a social investing app, Public sets itself apart by offering users a community place to share insights and discover companies, follow other investors, and, ultimately, build their financial literacy.

Public is a registered brokerage and member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation. The company was founded in 2017 and is headquartered in New York City.

Public Benefits

  • Start with $10 in free stock when your account is approved*
  • Invest in 1000s of stocks and ETFs with fractional shares—no account minimums
  • Follow friends in a social feed and learn from a diverse community of investors
  • * Free stock offer valid for U.S. residents 18+. Subject to account approval.

How does the Public app work?

For as little as $1, you can begin investing in the stock market from a selection of over 5,000 stocks and ETFs. You’ll find popular ETFs such as the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) and the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO), as well as ETFs across all the different asset classes. In addition to full shares, Public makes it possible to invest any dollar amount in any stock with what Public calls slices of stock. Investing in fractional shares means you can buy a portion of a stock share at a much more affordable price. For example, you can buy a slice of stock from a top company like Amazon or Apple for just $1.

When you begin investing, you can choose to follow companies, people, and interest-based themes to gain insight and explore new companies. Some examples of themes are Women in Charge, Technology & Innovation, and Health & Wellness. As a part of the Public investing community, you can start or join group chats to discuss companies with other investors, ask questions, and build your investing knowledge.

Although Public charges fees for things like wire transfers, paper statements, and transferring your portfolio to another service, Public is commission-free. That means you don’t have to pay a fee each time you make a trade through its platform, which can amount to big savings. Public isn’t the first brokerage to offer no-fee trades, as commission-free trading has become commonplace in the last year. Nonetheless, it’s a valuable benefit to investors.

Minimum investment required None
Management fees None
Account types available Taxable brokerage account
Asset classes Stocks and ETFs
Features Social investing, fractional shares, commission-free trading, day trading, no account minimums

Who can use the Public app?

With no commissions, fractional shares, and a community for investors to interact with and learn from, both beginner investors and experienced investors alike should find the Public app appealing.

To sign up for an account with Public, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Have a valid Social Security number
  • Have a legal U.S. residential address
  • Be a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident, or have a valid visa

How much can you earn with the Public app?

Any investment has a certain level of risk, and the Public app is no different. There’s no guarantee that you will make any money investing with Public, and you should keep in mind that it’s always possible to lose money trading and investing.

The amount of money you can earn with Public depends on the investments you make, market conditions, and how much time you give your investments to grow.

Maximizing your earnings with Public

Although returns are not guaranteed, you can maximize your earnings with Public in a couple ways:

  • Know what you’re investing in. This will require you to do some research on your end, but you should take some time to learn about the company stock or ETF you’re considering adding to your portfolio. Unlike robo advisors, the Public app is a self-directed brokerage account, so this legwork is your responsibility.
  • Enable DRIP. The Public app offers a DRIP, or dividend reinvestment plan. With this feature enabled, any dividends you may receive on a stock get automatically reinvested into the same company. This puts more money into your investments, which allows them to grow at a faster rate. There is no fee to use this feature.

How to stay safe investing with the Public app

In general, the less risk you assume, the safer your investment. For example, investing in a bond fund is typically less risky than investing in penny stocks, which are more volatile. Because you have full control over the investments you add to your Public portfolio, you need to weigh the potential returns against the risks of that particular investment.

Consider your investment timeline when determining your risk exposure. If you’re young and have plenty of time for your investments to rebound from inevitable declines, you might prefer an aggressive portfolio that leans heavily on stocks. As you get closer to retirement, however, you have less time to recover from market losses. For this reason, lower-risk investments such as bonds might be more favorable.

Common questions about the Public app

Is the Public app legit?

The Public app is a legitimate investment app that offers real-time trading. App store reviews give the app a 4.7 out of 5 stars (as of June 19, 2020) with mostly five-star reviews and a positive customer sentiment. Many high ratings revolve around the app’s user-friendly interface, friendly customer support, and social features. Some of the negative reviews complain about long wait periods for withdrawing money, bad service, and a glitchy app experience. Public is also a licensed brokerage and member of FINRA and SIPC.

Is the Public app safe?

Public uses bank-level security with AES 128-bit encryption and TLS 1.2 to secure data. Public is also a member of SIPC, which means the securities in your account are protected up to $500,000.

Which is the best investment app for beginners?

The best investment app for beginners is usually one that offers convenience, a low minimum investment, and no trading fees. As a beginner investor, you may also want to get started with an investment app that provides resources to help you learn about investing.

Here are some of the best investment apps:

Which is better: Public or Betterment?

Public and Betterment are both investment platforms, but they have some important differences. With Public, you are in control of your investment choices. You can also connect with a community of investors to learn about the market. Betterment, on the other hand, builds your portfolio by selecting ETFs on your behalf. In other words, Betterment manages your money and investments. And because Betterment handles your portfolio, it charges an annual management fee. Whether one is better than the other depends on your needs and investment objectives.

Which is better: Public or Robinhood?

Public and Robinhood are self-directed brokerages that allow you to invest in thousands of stocks and ETFs, free of commissions. In addition to stocks and ETFs, Robinhood offers cryptocurrency trading, options trading, and certain OTC equities (securities traded off stock exchanges), whereas Public does not. If you’re looking to make these sorts of investments, Robinhood might be the better choice.

How to sign up for the Public app

The Public app is available for Android, Apple, and desktop devices. To get started, download the Public app in the App Store, Google Play Store, or by visiting Public.com and requesting an app download link via text message. Once you download the app, it takes just a few minutes to get started. You will be asked to provide personal information, such as your email and phone number, to set up your account and for verification purposes. Once you receive notification that your account has been approved, you simply need to fund your account to begin investing.

Other investment apps to consider

The Public app offers zero-commission trading, fractional shares, and a community that can help you learn and grow as an investor. With that being said, the Public app might not feel like the right fit for you, and that’s OK. There are other investing platforms worth considering. Take Wealthfront and Robinhood, for example.

Wealthfront is a robo advisor that focuses on helping you build a diversified portfolio of low-cost ETFs with the goal of maximizing returns. Wealthfront even strategically executes trades so your tax obligation is lower. The service comes with a .25% annual advisory fee, but, in return, you get to enjoy a hands-off approach to investing — if that’s the style of investing that appeals to you.

Robinhood, on the other hand, is similar to Public in that you are in total control over your investments. Robinhood is a brokerage that allows you to invest commission-free in stocks, ETFs, and options, as well as buy and sell cryptocurrency. You can also invest in fractional shares of stocks with as little as $1. If you want an even more extensive investing experience, Robinhood Gold gives you access to research reports, the ability to make bigger deposits with quicker access to your funds, and the ability to trade on margin, all for $5 per month.

Public Benefits

  • Start with $10 in free stock when your account is approved*
  • Invest in 1000s of stocks and ETFs with fractional shares—no account minimums
  • Follow friends in a social feed and learn from a diverse community of investors
  • * Free stock offer valid for U.S. residents 18+. Subject to account approval.

Author Details

Matt Miczulski Matt Miczulski is a personal finance writer specializing in financial news, budget travel, banking, and debt. His interest in personal finance took off after eliminating $30,000 in debt in just over a year, and his goal is to help others learn how to get ahead with better money management strategies. A lover of history, Matt hopes to use his passion for storytelling to shine a new light on how people think about money. His work has also been featured on MoneyDoneRight and Recruiter.com.