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In this Public.com review, we’re covering an app that lets you buy and sell stocks without paying commissions or navigating a complicated trading platform. You can also use this app to invest in crypto, find new companies, and connect with like-minded investors.
- Commission-free stock and ETF trading
- Supports over 30 popular cryptocurrencies
- Supports fractional share investing
- Public Themes help you find new investing ideas
- Get a free stock worth up to $300
- You can’t transfer crypto to another wallet
- No options, mutual funds, precious metals, or bonds
- Only offers individual brokerage accounts and not IRAs
What Is Public.com?
Public.com is a free trading app that began in 2017. It used to be named Matador and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of a broker-dealer called T3 Securities Inc. Public uses a third party, Apex Clearing, to handle the background administrative stuff of running Public user accounts.
Like many online brokers nowadays, Public is commission-free and doesn’t require a minimum deposit to start investing. It also doesn’t use Payment For Order Flow, which is when brokers receive compensation to route orders to third-parties for trade execution.
Instead, Public has a tipping feature for trades. You can decide to give a tip to the broker for executing the trade. This helps eliminate conflicts of interest between brokers and customers.
There’s also a social media element to Public: The app makes your portfolio public to other users (hence the name) and gives you the ability to browse others’ portfolios.
Another big draw for Public is that the app lets you buy fractional shares (which it calls “slices”). This means you can purchase less than one entire share of a stock. Fractional shares come in handy when you’d like to buy, say, Amazon, which currently trades for more than $2,700 per share.
While Public makes buying and selling stocks and ETFs free and easy, its features are somewhat limited compared to larger brokers that also let you trade stocks and ETFs without paying commissions. For example, Public doesn’t support mutual funds, bonds, options, precious metals, and has somewhat limited stock research capabilities.
However, Public’s motto is “Everyone’s an Investor.” If you’re looking for an easy-to-use app that lets you buy and sell on the stock market, this app does an excellent job of meeting those needs. However, keep in mind that it just doesn’t have all of the features, research, and tools you’ll find with many other online brokers.
|Investment Types||Stocks, OTC/Penny Stocks, ETFs, Mutual Funds, Bonds, Options, Forex, Cryptocurrencies, Futures|
|Access||Web Based, iPhone App, Apple Watch, Android App, BlackBerry App|
|Broker Assisted Trade||$30|
|Customer Service||Phone and Live Chat: M-F 9A-5P ET; Email|
How Does Public Work?
Public accounts are easy and quick to open. I was able to complete the new account signup process in less than five minutes.
Once you login and fund your account, it’s easy to navigate, search for stocks and ETFs, view other users’ portfolios, and start trading. Plus you don’t need to link to your bank account to fund your Public account. You can use a debit card, which is great for people who are hesitant about linking third-party websites to their banks.
As of now, Public only offes individual, taxable brokerage accounts. There are no IRA or joint accounts.
You can view basic details about each supported security. That includes a price history, analyst ratings and price targets, upcoming earnings events, recent news, and basic fundamentals.
There’s enough information to get you started, but it may be a good idea to do more outside research before buying or selling. It’s still a lot of information for a beginner to digest, but very light for an expert or advanced investor.
The Public.com app organizes stocks into different investing baskets, or themes. If you want to invest in a particular sector but don’t know where to start, themes help point you in the right direction.
What’s nice about Public is that themes are also relevant to current world events and trends. Examples of some themes you can explore include:
- Artificial Intelligence
- Blockchain technology
- Crypto Assets
- Gaming & eSports
- Green Power
- Information Security
- Plant-Based Movement
- Self-Driving Cars
- Space Exploration
- The Metaverse
Overall, themes provide a nice balance of tech, financial, consumer, and health-based companies. Some themes also relate to ESG investing or social issues, like public companies with diverse leadership or women in leadership roles.
Fractional Share Investing
Instead of entering orders for a fixed number of shares, Public lets you buy fractional shares, or “Slices.” You can buy any amount of Slices you want, which is very beginner-friendly if you don’t have a lot of capital to invest.
For example, if a stock costs $1,000 per share and you want to invest $100, you can buy 0.1 shares. Or if a stock costs $300 per share and you want to invest $500, you could buy 1.6 shares. That makes any stock or ETF affordable to virtually any active trader or long-term investor.
Keep in mind that Public isn’t the only investing platform that lets you trade fractional shares. You’ll find this feature with a few stock brokers and robo advisors we’ve reviewed, including Betterment, M1, Stockpile and Stash, to name a few.
One new Public feature is cryptocurrency investing. The app supports over 30 popular cryptos, including:
- Shiba Inu
There isn’t a minimum investing requirement, so you can trade crypto with just a few dollars if you’re testing the waters.
Like its stock and ETF investing, Public.com works with Apex Crypto to support crypto trading. This means Public doesn’t have its own crypto wallet, so Apex Crypto holds your coins as a custodian. You can sell crypto for cash, but currently, you can’t transfer crypto you buy through Public.com to another wallet.
Overall, the lack of a native wallet is a downside for Public’s crypto investing. It also supports far fewer coins than crypto exchanges like Coinbase or Gemini.
If you just want to dabble in crypto investing and eventually sell your holdings, Public gets the job done. Just remember you’re limiting you options, and other exchanges like Coinbase even let you stake different coins to earn passive income.
Public doesn’t charge any trading fees or commissions. As with every brokerage, there may be some small SEC and TAF fees, but most Public traders will be at a low enough volume that they won’t ever pay more than a few cents.
Public Investor Profiles
When you sign up for a Public account, you create an investor profile with a public username. Anyone in the Public community can view your profile. You can also look at other investors’ profiles for ideas and inspiration.
There are also some “celebrity” profiles that are easy to find and view. In addition, you can connect to your phone’s address book to see if anyone you know already is on the platform.
Ultimately, this system helps you find more investing ideas and connect with other investors. You should still do your own research, but it’s nice to see what successful investors are trading.
Have a question for a CEO of a company you’ve invested in or are thinking about investing in? With Public’s Town Halls, you can connect with founders and CEOs. These meetings are live, written Q&As that take place within the app.
You can also submit questions in advance and tune in live to see them answered. The sessions are usually scheduled about one to two months in advance, so check on the app to see who is joining Public’s upcoming Town Halls.
When you go to buy a stock or ETF, Public.com will have a label on the product if it’s considered risky by the Securities and Exchange Commission. While all stocks have a bit of risk, some are riskier than others and Public.com identifies those that are considered very risky.
For example, a company that filed for bankruptcy has a higher level of risk than a company that is making a profit. Knowing if a stock is riskier or not allows you to make an informed decision about whether or not to invest in that stock or ETF.
Public is SIPC-insured, which means that each customer’s securities investment is protected up to $500,000. Cash amounts up to $250,000 are also covered.
On the tech side of things, Public accounts are protected by bank-grade 128-bit encryption, and all data is secured with Transport Layer Security.
Public.com Pricing & Fees
As mentioned, Public.com doesn’t charge commissions for trading stocks and ETFs. And instead of using Payment for Order Flow to generate revenue, it uses an optional tipping system to generate revenue from trades.
However, you can still encounter some Public fees, especially if you trade crypto:
- Crypto Trades: Apex Crypto charges a 1% to 2% markup fee for all cryptocurrency trades.
- Domestic Wire Transfers: $25.
- Returned Check, ACH, & Wires: $30.
- Instant Withdrawals: Up to 2% of the amount with a $0.50 minimum and $50 maximum.
- Inactivity Fees: $5 per quarter for accounts with less than $20 in value and no activity for the last 90 days.
Crypto fees seem like a downside, but you pay a similar spread fee with exchanges like Coinbase or Gemini. If you want a more cost-effective way to invest in crypto, exchanges like FTX.US or Binance.US are better choices.
If you decide to test out Public, just be cautious of the inactivity fees so you don’t throw $20 away.
How To Contact Public.com
You can contact Public customer support by emailing [email protected] Alternatively, use the live chat feature within the app. Chat support is available from 9:00am to 5:00pm ET, Monday through Friday.
Best Public.com Alternatives
Public is an easy-to-use investing app that’s great for beginners because of its fractional share investing. Its themes and public profiles can also help point you in the right direction if you need investing ideas.
That said, there are other commission-free investing apps you can use to trade stocks, ETFs, and crypto. And some Public.com alternatives like Robinhood and Webull have even more investing options.
Like Public, both Robinhood and Webull offer fractional shares. These investing apps also let you trade options unlike Public. And currently, Webull supports both IRA and individual brokerage accounts, so it has more account options than Public. Robinhood is also rolling out IRA support.
As for simple crypto trading, Robinhood is your best option even though it only supports 11 coins. This is because it lets you transfer crypto in and out of your wallet. In contrast, both Public and Webull don’t let you transfer crypto assets.
The bottom line is that Public’s selling point is that it’s public; you can learn from other investors and use its themes to find baskets of stocks you’re interested in. In this sense, it’s an excellent investing app for beginners. But if you want more trading options and account flexibility, Robinhood or Webull are better choices.
Plus, Robinhood gives eligible new accounts a free stock worth anywhere from $3 to $225. And Webull gives you up to five free stocks for opening and funding an account, with stocks being worth up to $3,000.
Public also gives you a free stock ranging from $3 to $300, so you can try each app to find you favorite and leverage sign-up bonuses.
Public is a great place for beginners to start buying and selling stocks if they prefer an app-based trading experience. The app removes much of the confusion that holds new people back from opening a new stock trading account. And if you’re attracted to the community aspect, that could be another positive feature that draws you in.
Intermediate to advanced investors will likely find the offerings from Public not strong enough to meet their needs. And if you’re serious about crypto trading, exchanges like Coinbase or Gemini are better alternatives.
Overall, it’s not perfect for everyone, but Public could be a fun choice for new investors looking to get started with stocks and ETFs.
Disclaimer – Paid non-client endorsement. See Apple App Store and Google Play reviews. View important disclosures.
Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser. This material has been distributed for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended as investment, legal, accounting, or tax advice. Investing involves risk.
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