Public Review [2023]: Community-Focused Investing & Commission-Free Trading

Public gives you access to several markets, including the stock, ETF, cryptocurrency, and alternative markets.
Updated April 3, 2023
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A shift in the investing landscape over the past few years made commission-free trading become the norm, giving individual investors a convenient way to access the market. Public2 aims to offer you this convenience not only when trading stocks, but also when investing in exchange-traded funds (ETFs), cryptocurrencies, and other alternative assets.

But would Public offer you an advantage that other investment platforms don't? In this review, we’ll take a look at Public to explore how it works, who it’s best for, and how it stacks up against other investment platforms.

Quick Summary

Invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds, cryptocurrencies, and alternatives.

  • Get $3-$300 in free stock when your account is approved*1 .
  • Invest in 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.

In this Public review

What is Public?

Public is a brokerage and a free investing app and platform focused on giving a broader audience of investors greater access to the stock, cryptocurrency, and alternative markets. Through Public, members could buy full shares or fractional shares of stock, popular exchange-traded funds (ETFs), cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and alternative assets. The app doesn't offer index funds or mutual funds.

Public sets itself apart by offering members a community place to share insights and discover companies, get insights from other investors, and, ultimately, build their financial literacy.

The Public platform also offers a premium service that gives you access to additional data and market insights. Public Premium costs $10 per month, however, you can get complimentary access if your account balance is above $20,000.

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

How does Public work?

With a $0 minimum investment requirement, you can invest in stocks, ETFs, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, or other alternative assets including collectibles, video games, trading cards, art, books, luxury items, comics, and memorabilia.

Minimum investment required $0
Management fees None
Account types available Taxable brokerage account
Asset classes Stocks, ETFs, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, art, and alternatives
Features Fractional shares, commission-free trading, day trading, no account minimums

Stocks and ETFs

With a wide selection of stocks and ETFs. You can find popular shares such as Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Mircosoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), and more. You can also find ETFs such as the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) and the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO), as well as ETFs across several different asset classes.

Public offers full shares and also makes it possible to invest any dollar amount in any stock with what it calls slices of stock. Investing in these stock slices or fractional shares means you would buy a portion of a stock share for any amount of money above $0. For example, you could buy a slice of stock from a top company like Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) 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 could start or join group chats to discuss companies with other investors, ask questions, and build your investing knowledge.

Keep in mind
Public charges $0 fees for U.S. stocks and ETFs during normal trading hours. Extended-hours trades are free for premium members and cost $2.99 per trade for non-premium members.


The Public trading app offers 30 cryptocurrencies you could invest in, including bitcoin (BTC), ethereum (ETH), cardano (ADA), dogecoin (DOGE), and more. There is no minimum investment to invest in cryptocurrencies on the Public investing app.

The app allows you to view your cryptocurrencies in the same place as your stocks and ETFs, which may simplify the investing experience. Just like stocks and ETFs, you could also connect with other crypto investors and gain insights from them.

Keep in mind
Trading cryptocurrencies on Public is commission free, but a markup of 1% to 2%  is added to your trades by Apex Crypto, a company Public uses to get access to the crypto market.

Alternative assets

Public gives you access to several classes of alternative assets, some of which aren’t commonly available on similar platforms.

These asset classes include:

  • Non-fungible tokens (NFTs)
  • Fine art
  • Collectibles
  • Memorabilia
  • Luxury goods
  • Trading cards
  • Video games
  • Books
  • Comics

The platform also plans to add access to music royalties, real estate, and more alternative assets in the near future.

To invest in alternative assets available on Public, you can buy fractional shares of the asset you want to invest in. This gives you partial ownership of this asset, which is often held at a secured location. Public also insures alternative assets listed on its platform.

There are several fees that can be associated with trading alternative assets on Public. These fees include:

  • True-up fee: This is a markup fee that may range between 0% to 10% of the asset value when it goes through an initial offering on Public.
  • Secondary market trading fee: This is a 2.5% trading fee that you may be charged when you buy or sell alternative assets.
  • Cashflow fee: This is a 5% fee on revenues of assets that produce cash flow.
  • Management fee: This is a 2% annual management fee on assets that do not produce cash flow.
  • Carry: This is a 10% fee on profits that Public charges when an asset is sold.

To make things simpler, Public lists the fees associated with an asset in its information.

Public Premium

You can create a Public account for free to trade stocks, ETFs, cryptocurrencies, and alternative assets. However, Public also offers a premium account that gives you access to deeper market data and advanced investment tools.

The premium membership includes:

  • Advanced stock and ETF insights: Including revenue reports, company metrics, and more.
  • Extended trading hours: Giving you additional trading hours before and after normal market hours. The additional hours are 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. ET and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET.
  • Expert insights: Including analyst reports, ratings from investment research firm Morningstar, and more.
  • Portfolio management tools: Enabling you to customize and better align the goals of your portfolio.

Keep in mind
To access these premium services, you can pay $10 per month or have $20,000 or more in your Public account to get complimentary access.

Automated investing

Public enables you to automate the amount of money you use for commission-free stock trading, ETF investing, or cryptocurrency purchases using its automated investing feature. This allows you to allocate a certain amount of money from your bank account or funding method to an asset on a regular basis. The technique is known as dollar-cost averaging and it spreads out your invested money over a number of purchases, which may reduce your risk.

Not to be confused with some of the best robo-advisors out there, this feature doesn't perform trading decisions on your behalf. Instead, it simply enables you to set up regular purchases of a certain asset.

Who can use Public?

With no commissions, fractional shares, cryptocurrencies, and a community for investors to learn and get financial advice from, both beginner investors and experienced investors alike may find the Public app appealing.

To sign up for a Public account, 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 Public?

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 might maximize your earnings with Public in a couple of 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, ETF, or cryptocurrency 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 might allow them to grow at a faster rate. There is no fee to use this feature.

Invest in Stocks, ETFs, Crypto, Art, Collectibles, and More—All in One Place

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How to stay safe investing with Public

In general, the less risk you assume, the safer your investment. For example, investing in a bond fund may be 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.

Additionally, make sure to be aware of the fees you pay. Public states that it displays its fees clearly to support its members' decisions. The platform also moved away from payment for order flow (PFOF), a system used by some investment apps to incentivize their brokers to execute trades. Public moved away from this system after it became apparent in 2021 that the system may not always favor investors' best interests.

How to sign up for Public

The Public app is available for Android and iOS. You could also access the desktop platform on your laptop or computer.

To get started, download the Public mobile app in the App Store or Google Play Store. You could also sign up on It takes just a few minutes to sign up by following these steps:

  1. Enter your phone number. Public sends a confirmation code to your phone to verify that it's your actual phone number.

  1. Enter your legal name, email address, and username. You could change the username later if you'd like to.

  1. You could add a profile picture, but it's not required.

  1. Once you receive notification that your investment account has been approved, you could simply fund your account using an ACH transfer or domestic wire transfer to begin investing. Public has no minimum deposit.

FAQs about Public

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 Oct 28, 2022) with mostly five-star reviews and 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.

Does Public offer safety features?

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 for 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, ETFs, and cryptocurrencies, Robinhood offers options trading, and certain OTC equities (securities traded off stock exchanges), whereas Public does not. On the other hand, Public offers alternative assets such as art and collectibles that you can't find on Robinhood. 

Other investment apps to consider

Public offers zero-commission trading, fractional shares, and a community that may help you learn and grow as a new 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.

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 0.25% 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.

Get more information in our Wealthfront review.

Robinhood, on the other hand, is similar to Public in that you are in total control over your investment options. Robinhood is a brokerage that allows you to invest commission-free in stocks, ETFs, and options, as well as buy and sell cryptocurrency. You could 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.

Learn more in our Robinhood review.

Public Benefits

  • Get up to $10,000 when you transfer your brokerage account to Public.com3
  • Invest in stocks, ETFs, crypto, art, collectibles, and more
  • Get insights from millions of investors

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