Public App review
If you’re in the trading industry, you know a good brokerage can be key. Public App is a commission-free brokerage app made for iOS and Android devices. This app allows fractional shares, dividend reinvestment, and more. Is Public the right brokerage app for your trading? Read our review of Public App and learn more before you decide.
Public is a commission-free brokerage app for iOS and Android devices. The brokerage focuses on social investing and making stock market investing more accessible to those with small amounts of capital.
While the social aspect of Public is nice, there’s otherwise not much daylight between Public and well-established competitors like Robinhood and Webull. Our Public app review will help you decide if this mobile brokerage is worth your time.
Public App Features
Public only offers individual brokerage accounts, not retirement accounts. There’s no minimum deposit required to open an account.
Stocks & ETFs
Public offers 9,000+ stocks and ETFs (exchange-traded funds), including most publicly traded US companies. There are around 300 OTC stocks available to trade.
Public doesn’t support mutual funds, bonds, or options.
Public recently added support for crypto. You can buy and sell more than 25 different digital currencies.
One unique investment option at Public is treasury bills. You can invest in treasuries with as little as $100. Rates for treasury bills are locked in when you purchase them, and you can redeem your bills for cash at any time.
At the time of writing, you can earn up to 5.0% APY investing in treasuries through Public. That’s a lot better than the interest rate you’ll get from a bank account or money market fund.
You have to open a separate Treasury Account with Public to access treasuries, but you can manage these investments alongside all your other assets on Public.
Public enables you to invest in fractional ownership of alternative assets like fine art and collectibles. Some of the items available to invest in include a Banksy painting and a Hermes Birkin bag. The minimum investment is different for every asset, but it is often less than $1.
There are a couple of advantages that Public can claim over other investing apps. First, it’s fully commission-free. Eliminating trading fees is hardly unique for a brokerage nowadays, but it’s nevertheless important.
What’s even more noteworthy is that Public doesn’t make money through payment for order flow, a common practice among commission-free brokerage services and one that landed Robinhood in hot water with many traders. Instead, the brokerage earns interest on uninvested cash balances, markups on crypto transactions, and securities lending.
No Minimum Deposit
Public also doesn’t require you to open an investing account to use the app or require a minimum deposit if you do create a trading account. It’s a totally free investing app for exploring the stock market and monitoring stocks, ETFs, and crypto.
Fractional Share Investing
Another major advantage to using the Public investing app is that it allows you to invest in fractional shares. That’s also not all that unique, but Public does a better job with this than most other brokerages.
Fractional shares are quoted in real-time, and orders are executed immediately. You don’t have to wait until the end of the day to join in on a batch order. In addition, Public sets the minimum investment for most fractional shares at just $1.
The Public investing app also offers automatic dividend reinvestment for any of the stocks you own in your portfolio. That’s something that many of its competitors don’t have as an option.
Free Stock Bonuses
It’s also worth noting that Public offers a few free stock deals for new members. When you make your first deposit, you’ll receive a free stock slice valued at between $3 and $300. The platform also has a generous referral program that offers another slice of free stock when a friend signs up.
Another important way in which the Public investing app is unique is that this brokerage leans heavily into social investing. All investing accounts on the platform are public by default, including what stocks are in every user’s portfolios. (You have the option to make your account private.)
You can’t see how any user has distributed their money across the stocks in their portfolio or cash, so it’s rather difficult to glean much useful information from this feature. In addition, while the Public app shows you which users you follow are watching or holding a particular stock, you can’t see how many users across the platform are buying or selling to help gauge sentiment across the stock market.
The more functional aspect of social investing with Public is that users can leave a comment when they buy or sell a stock. Ideally, you can follow other users who leave helpful commentary about why they’re making specific trading decisions. It’s worth noting, though, that there’s some bias in this system. You can only discuss a stock when buying or selling it, not when looking at it and deciding against trading it.
Public also serves as a large community forum for investors. While you can’t comment directly on stocks except when trading, you can comment on other users’ portfolios and trades. You can also direct message other investors or set up a group investing chat with friends. The Public app even hosts town halls with well-known investors, financial analysts, and economists.
The stock pages on Public look eerily similar to those on Robinhood. Public uses the same line charts and doesn’t offer any sort of candlestick or more detailed price charts. It’s a little tough to glean any details about a stock’s past performance and the fundamental data available in the app is also extremely minimal.
You can find recent news articles, which are typically sourced from well-known market news sources like Seeking Alpha and Benzinga. On the whole, though, Public’s stock research is limited to looking through what the investing community on the app has to say about a stock.
Public App Customization and Layout
Most of Public’s customization features are centered around its social investing dashboard. In addition to choosing who you follow, the platform will automatically surface suggested Public accounts to help grow your network. You can also create a watchlist (but only one) by starring companies that you want to keep an eye on.
Overall, the customization options are nice, but none of the core features of the Public app – most notably the charts and other data displayed for stocks – can be changed.
Unlike some of the other mobile-centric brokers, Public still doesn’t have a web trading platform. You have to use the mobile app to invest.
Customer support isn’t as exciting as technical features, but this is an area where Public excels compared to other brokerages. The Public app offers in-app, real-time chat support. That means that if you have a question, you can get it answered immediately without even leaving the app.
Public Premium is similar to Robinhood Gold. It’s a paid service that adds some extra features to the investment app. Public Premium costs $10 per month or $96 per year.
With a Premium subscription, you get extended hours trading, the ability to set up recurring investments, and priority support. You also get access to Morningstar stock research reports, exclusive market research articles, and portfolio management tools that evaluate how diversified you are.
On the whole, these features are nice, but not overly exciting. The Morningstar research is arguably the best feature of Public Premium, but you could also sign up for Morningstar Premium on its own for $249 per year. It’s more expensive, but you get access to way more stock and ETF research tools.
Public Platform Differentiators
Public is one of several mobile-first investment apps offering commission-free trading. Most notably, this app has a tremendous amount in common with Robinhood, which is much more well-established. Like Public, Robinhood offers completely free trading for most US stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrency, as well as real-time trading for fractional investing.
There are a few things that set the Public app apart.
The first is its social investing component, although we wouldn’t say that this is groundbreaking. There are other social brokerages and social stock research tools, so Public’s main contribution is to bring together social trading and fractional investing. This isn’t to say that’s not a good combination or that the brokerage has little to offer, but it seems like it reinvented the wheel to a large extent.
Another differentiating factor for Public is its Treasury Account offering. No other mobile-first brokerage apps that we know of offer treasuries investing, although a growing number do offer high-interest savings accounts. Investors who like to keep a large portion of their portfolio as cash can earn up to 5.0% APY by buying treasuries through Public.
Public also offers the ability to buy fractions of alternative assets like art and collectibles. This is something we also haven’t seen from other brokerages. The selection of assets you can invest in isn’t huge, but this is a neat way to diversify your portfolio away from stocks and ETFs.
One additional reason to opt for the Public app over a competing app is the in-app live chat support. This is something that few commission-free brokerages offer, and being able to get support immediately can make a huge difference if you need it. Public may also appeal to investors who don’t appreciate payment for order flow.
What Type of Trader is Public Best For?
The Public app is best for new investors who want to start investing with a brokerage that offers either a social experience or real-time investing in fractional shares. The fact that Public investment accounts don’t have minimum balances is a plus compared to other brokers that offer commission-free stock trading. In addition, fractional share investing makes this brokerage very accessible to first-time investors who don’t have a lot of cash to put into the market. Dividend reinvestment helps orient this app towards long-term value investors who are looking for a brokerage with which to save for retirement.
Keep in mind that the Public app does not have much in the way of stock market research tools beyond surfacing users’ commentary on trades. This is definitively not the best brokerage for day trading or any type of advanced technical and fundamental trading that relies heavily on data.
- Commission-free trading on stocks, ETFs, crypto, and US treasuries
- Invest in fractional shares with real-time execution
- Offers dividend reinvestment
- Social trading allows you to see what others are buying and selling
- In-app chat support
- No technical charts and few research tools
- Can only comment on stocks when you buy or sell stocks