We recommend Public for new and experienced investors looking for a simple platform to trade a wide range of investment products. Public offers stocks, Treasury bills1, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and alternative assets such as cryptocurrencies and music royalties2.
We also like its High-Yield Cash Account that offers an industry-leading annual percentage yield of 5.10% (as of Feb. 9, 2024)3, no monthly maintenance fees, no minimum balance, and FDIC insurance up to $5 million. However, people interested in mutual funds or retirement accounts should keep in mind that Public doesn't currently offer these options.
In this Public review, we’ll explore how it works, who it’s best for, and how it stacks up against other investment platforms.
Invest in stocks, exchange-traded funds, cryptocurrencies, and alternatives.
- Invest in stocks and ETFs with fractional shares and without paying commissions
- Get access to the bond, options, and crypto markets
- Earn an APY of 5.10% (as of Feb. 9, 2024) on balances in your Public High-Yield Cash Account
What is Public?
- Simple platform with a wide range of investment products with unique options available
- Access to a High-Yield Cash Account with an APY of 5.10% (as of Feb. 9, 2024)
- No minimum investment or account maintenance fees
- No retirement accounts
- No mutual funds
Public is a brokerage and an investing app and online platform focused on giving a broader audience of investors greater access to the stock, bond, cryptocurrency, and alternative markets. Through Public, members could buy full shares or fractional shares of stocks, popular exchange-traded funds (ETFs), cryptocurrencies, and alternative assets.
Keep in mindWhile Public offers various investment assets, it doesn't offer 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, bonds, Treasury bills, options, and music royalties.
|Minimum investment required
|Account types available
|Taxable brokerage account
|Stocks, ETFs, cryptocurrencies, bonds, Treasury bills, options, and music royalties
|Fractional shares, commission-free stock and ETF 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 allows you to buy full shares or fractional shares. Investing in fractional shares means buying a portion of a stock share for any amount of money above $0. For example, you could buy a fractional share from a top company like Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) for just $1.
Keep in mindPublic charges $0 commission 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 7 cryptocurrencies you could invest in, including bitcoin (BTC), ethereum (ETH), lightcoin (LTC), 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 mindCryptocurrency trades have transaction fees between $0.49 and $6.29 for orders between $0.01 and $500, depending on your order amount. For orders larger than $500, the fee is 1.25% of your order.
Trading cryptocurrencies on Public is offered via Bakkt Crypto, a company Public uses to access the crypto market.
High-Yield Cash Account
Public’s High-Yield Cash Account is a secondary brokerage account that you can open to help you manage the funds you use and keep with Public. Balances in the Cash Account are deposited with Public's partner banks, which helps you earn an APY of 5.10% (as of Feb. 9, 2024).
The High-Yield Cash Account doesn't have a monthly maintenance fee or a minimum balance requirement. It comes with FDIC insurance up to $5 million and enables you to perform unlimited transfers and withdrawals. This provides you with ample security and flexibility.
Keep in mind that Public itself isn't a bank. However, the funds you deposit into this account go into a network of banks that partner with Public to offer this account and its high annual yield.
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 mindTo access these premium services, you can pay $10 per month or have $20,000 or more in your Public account to get complimentary access.
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
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, go to Public and begin the sign-up process. It typically takes less than 10 minutes to create an account.
- Begin by entering your email address, preferred password, and phone number. Public will send a confirmation code to your phone for verification.
- Enter your date of birth and select your citizenship status. You may need to provide a picture of your government-issued identification.
- Provide your full legal name and permanent address.
- Choose whether you'd like to enable crypto trading. This is an option you can activate later as well.
- Agree to Public's terms and conditions. From there, you can continue your account set up by deciding your goals and funding your account.
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.
FinanceBuzz is not an investment advisor. This content is for informational purposes only, you should not construe any such information as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.
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