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. The Public app aims to offer you this convenience not only when trading stocks, but also when investing in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and cryptocurrencies.
But would the Public app offer you an advantage that other apps don't? In this review, we’ll take a look at the Public app to explore how it works, who it’s best for, and how it stacks up against other investment platforms.
Invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds, and cryptocurrencies with as little as $1.
- Get $3-$300 in free stock when your account is approved*.
- 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.
What is the Public app?
Public is a brokerage and a free investing app focused on giving a broader audience of investors greater access to the stock and cryptocurrency markets. Through Public, users could buy full shares or fractional shares of stock, popular exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and cryptocurrencies for as little as $1 without commission fees. The app doesn't offer index funds or mutual funds.
Public sets itself apart by offering users a community place to share insights and discover companies, get insights from other investors, and, ultimately, build their financial literacy.
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 the Public app work?
For as little as $1, you could begin investing in stocks, ETFs, or cryptocurrencies. The Public app offers these three asset categories as of July 2022 but plans to offer art, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and collectibles in the near future.
|Minimum investment required||$1|
|Account types available||Taxable brokerage account|
|Asset classes||Stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrencies|
|Features||Fractional shares, commission-free trading, day trading, no account minimums|
Stocks and ETFs
With a wide selection of stocks and ETFs. You would 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 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 $1. For example, you could buy a slice of stock from a top company like Amazon or Apple for just $1.
When you begin investing, you would 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.
The Public trading app offers 30 cryptocurrencies you could invest in, including bitcoin (BTC), ethereum (ETH), cardano (ADA), dogecoin (DOGE), and more. Trading cryptocurrencies on the Public investing app could begin from $1 and is commission-free. However, 1% to 2% markup is added to your trades to pay Apex Crypto, a company Public uses to get access to the crypto market.
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.
Public enables you to automate the amount of money you use for commission-free stock trading, ETFs 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.
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 recent years. Nonetheless, it may be a valuable benefit to investors.
Public used to use payment for order flow (PFOF), a system used by some investment apps to incentivize their brokers to execute trades. However, it became apparent in 2021 that this system may not always favor investors' best interest, and Public decided to move away from it by implementing an optional tipping feature.
Who can use the Public app?
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 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 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.
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.
FAQs 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 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. 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 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 Public.com. It takes just a few minutes to sign up by following these steps:
- Enter your phone number. Public sends a confirmation code to your phone to verify that it's your actual phone number.
- Enter your legal name, email address, and username. You could change the username later if you'd like to.
- You could add a profile picture, but it's not required.
- Once you receive notification that your investing 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.
Other investment apps to consider
The Public app 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.
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.
- Get $3-$300 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.