For the passive or new investor who desires investing education, Public is a good fit. Although the company offers a limited selection of account types, Public has a great pricing structure without trading fees or commissions.
Public stands out for its social media element with an option that lets you follow and connect with friends and experts in the community. However, traders and investors interested in derivatives, mutual funds, retirement accounts, or a more robust financial toolset will find better options elsewhere.
Public is a user-friendly commission-free stock trading mobile app that caters to beginner investors. The company targets those who hesitate to invest due to a lack of financial literacy, limited access to expensive financial products, and high share prices that require significant investment. Public was built to address these issues and unlock access to the stock market for a broader audience of investors.
Public was established in 2019 as an American financial services company and was founded by Jannick Malling and Leif Abraham. The company is headquartered in New York City and develops a fractional mobile and web investing platform. Public is a regulated broker-dealer, with securities in each account protected up to $500,000.
Pros & Cons
Fractional shares allowed
The social media element connects investors
Easy to use mobile app
No Payment for Order Flow
Limited account types
Limited investment selections
- Public lets you buy fractional shares: Fractional shares lower the barrier to entry in investing by allowing customers with limited cash to buy a stake in a company.
- Public offers a social media platform: You can follow popular creators and share ideas with a community of investors, making the stock market an inclusive and educational place through social media collaboration.
- Public does not participate in payment for order flow (PFOF): PFOF is a practice where a brokerage firm receives rebates on trades routed through its clearing firm. Public, instead, offers an optional tipping feature.
- Public’s mobile app is user-friendly: Accounts can be opened quickly, and users can easily navigate the platform.
- Public offers limited account types: You will only have the ability to open a taxable, individual brokerage account. There are no IRA or joint account options.
- Public offers limited investment selections: Investors can only choose stocks, ETFs, treasuries, alternative offerings like collectibles, and cryptocurrency. Public does not support mutual funds, options contracts, bonds, or forex investing.
- Public's platform has limited features: Public does not offer charting capabilities, no real screeners, or other stock evaluation tools.
Public has a user-friendly platform that makes the app simple and easy to navigate. Once you download the app, answer a few basic questions to submit your application and open an account. Public's web version of its trading platform displays your information more expansively than the app.
Once you fund your account, search for stocks and ETFs, view other portfolios, and start investing. The home page features market data and community insights on trades. You can also view other investor posts and their portfolios by clicking on an account profile. You can join a discussion, direct message others, or build a group chat.
When searching for new stocks, type in the ticker symbol in the search box, or browse through the different categories created by Public. Some categories include companies reporting earnings, companies new to the market, meme stocks, space exploration stocks, ETFs, and top movers. Public groups companies into themes, with the ability to choose a category and browse the list.
Because Public's app came first and the web platform after, they are identical in almost every way. The web platform takes advantage of a larger display area for fitting and arranging content, but there is no difference in the toolsets, capabilities, or trade experience between the two.
Mobile Trade Experience
The overall workflow on the mobile app is good, but the trade experience with Public is a basic one. You cannot customize your trading experience, trade from the chart, or stage multiple orders. Beginners and new investors can easily create a buy or sell order.
Search for the stock or ETF you’re looking for, and select “Invest.” You will then be instructed to designate a specific dollar amount or shares to trade. Public has leaned heavily on the community element, providing investor trades and hashtagged categories for a stream of trading possibilities.
Range of Offerings
Public only offers a taxable, individual brokerage account to invest in:
- Alternatives like fractional shares of art or collectibles
Unlike competing brokers, Public does not offer retirement accounts or joint accounts. However, the broker does support fractional shares, making it easy for new investors to access expensive stocks.
If you’re trading fractional shares, the order ticket defaults to a market order. If buying or selling whole shares, choose between a limit, market, and stop order. There is no functionality for tax lot selection. If you’re a new investor looking to be solely passive, the order types that Public supports might suit your needs.
Investing has become accessible with the standardization of the commission-free trading model. Without commission fees, brokerages tend to lean on other forms of revenue to sustain and grow their businesses, including payment for order flow (PFOF), a much-debated practice in which a brokerage firm receives rebates on trades routed through its clearing firm.
Public does not use order flow as a revenue generator and the broker has an optional tipping feature for customers to use when they make a trade. Members can choose to add a tip to their trade to support Public’s commitment.
When you submit an order to buy or sell securities, Public will send that order to a market center for fulfillment. Public routes your order to the one that they believe, using reasonable diligence, will execute that order on the most favorable terms, price, and time of execution available. Public does not support automated trading or backtesting.
The Public app is completely free to use and Public does not charge trading fees or commissions. Additionally, there are no account minimums, account maintenance fees, and no fees to open or close accounts. Public does have a markup on cryptocurrency like many brokers, which is between $0.49 to 1.25% of the order.
Public has a premium subscription tier at $10/per month that provides research, data, charts, and specialized customer service. Some additional costs include:
- Alternative Assets fee 2.5% per transaction
- Domestic overnight checks: $35
- Domestic wire transfers (outgoing): $25
- Paper statements: $5
- Returned checks and stop payments: $30
- Outgoing ACAT: $75
How This Broker Makes Money From You and for You
- Optional Tipping: Public has an optional tipping feature for customers to use when they make a trade. Members can choose to add a tip to their trade to support Public’s commitment to not participating in payment for order flow.
- Securities Lending: Public uses Apex as their clearing partner, and can lend shares to investors and institutions that need or want to borrow them. Those parties pay a market-driven interest rate for borrowing the shares and may use the borrowed stock to provide liquidity, hedge a position, arbitrage an opportunity, create a structured product, or bet against the price of the stock. Apex then provides Public a portion of the interest they receive as a rebate against their clearing and custody fees.
- Interest on cash balances: Public earns interest on uninvested cash balances.
- Subscription fees: Public has a premium offering that costs $10 every 30 days.
- Crypto and Alternative Investments: A markup is charged on crypto transactions and alternative investments to cover transaction costs.
Account and Research Amenities
Public provides basic data for beginner investors to make decisions. Aside from its themes such as meme stocks, space exploration, and green power, Public does not have stock or ETF screeners, no charting functionality, nor third-party research for the basic membership tier.
Public does not offer stock screeners. It does have themes that group stocks and lists of top movers, but these are not customizable or controllable.
ETF and Mutual Fund Screener
Public does not offer ETF or mutual fund screeners.
This broker does not offer options contracts or screeners.
Fixed Income Screener
Public does not offer fixed income vehicles or screeners.
Public’s platform does not support charting functionality. There are only simple price history graphs without any analytical functionality. However, you can embed your charts into your discussions.
Tools and Calculators
Using Public’s capital gains tax calculator, you estimate your tax obligation based on profit earned, length of ownership, and other personal financial circumstances. Public also has a fractional share calculator that shows how many shares you can buy with a given dollar amount.
Trading Idea Generators
Public does not have trade idea generators but has an investing community to engage with other investors to see what works for them and what doesn't. Most conversations focus on stock performance, risk strategies, or an investor's sentiment about the general stock market.
News about companies on your watchlist, sourced from publications like Market Watch, Barron’s, and Reuter’s Business Insider is available on the homepage.
Public does not offer third-party research for the basic membership. Premium members get access to more advanced data, company metrics, ratings, and Morningstar research.
Fractional Dividend Reinvestment Plan (DRIP)
For stocks that pay dividends, you can opt to invest back into the company in your account settings. If your dividend won't buy a complete share of a stock, a fractional share will be issued.
The company earns interest on your uninvested cash balances and keeps it as one of its revenue sources.
SRI/ESG Research Amenities
Aside from applicable themes, such as green power, Public does not have socially responsible investing (SRI) or environmental, social, and governance (ESG) research amenities.
Public does not have portfolio analysis tools beyond basic balance displays and buying power.
Public has a library of resources on their mobile app and website with a selection of articles related to investing, retirement, and the stock market. Public also partners with organizations to facilitate live events and workshops.
Much of the education on the Public platform is populated by the social media element of the app. Investors can join a discussion, direct message others, or build a group chat. It is also important to note that you can’t see another person’s full portfolio, only the stocks on the Public app.
Public doesn’t have the most comprehensive customer service.
- There is a physical office located in NYC.
- If you have questions about your account, the product, or anything else, you can access the FAQs, reach out via email, or send a note using the in-app live chat.
Security and Reliability
- Two-Factor Authentication via SMS secures your account, so you can only log in with your registered device. Public also has biometric authentication capability.
- Public employs Bank-Grade security with AES 256-bit encryption and TLS 1.2 to secure data in transit.
- The broker is also a member of SIPC, where all members automatically qualify for protection on up to $500,000 in their account.
Since is founding in 2019, Public has not faced any regulatory actions. Public does publicly post its fees and pricing schedule on its website.
Available Account Types
Public only offers taxable individual brokerage accounts.
Public is best for beginner investors looking to build a community and share ideas. With limited offerings, Public provides only taxable individual brokerage accounts. Investors interested in portfolio offerings that include retirement accounts and mutual funds or those looking to develop their investing skills would be better served by a larger broker. Public anticipates that there is a sizeable group of new, mobile-first investors who appreciate the social element and choose their service for that option.
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