*This post may contain affiliate links, please see my disclosure
Are you looking to start investing but worried about meeting minimums? Then you want to check out Public. This investing app combines fractional shares with commission-free trading. That means that Public removes most of the barriers that new investors face.
But is Public worth it? Let’s get to know this investing platform.
Public Review Summary
- A revamped version of Matador, this brokerage made its way onto the investing scene in 2019
- A low-cost investing app that made removing barriers to entry its investing mission
- Allows for transparency by including a social component to learn what others are investing in
- Offers fractional investing in crypto, as well as stocks and ETFs
Public Pros & Cons
Rookie investors who want to get into the investing game but feel priced out are going to find a lot to love about Public. But before you download the app, let’s explore the main pros and cons to Public.
- Designed for active traders interested in stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrency
- Allows investors to learn from other Public users
- Educational resources include live events to support new and veteran investors
- Low fees and no account minimums
- Fractional share investing starting at $1
- Not designed for passive investors
- No personalized support from robo or human advisors
- No access to Foreign Exchange Market (Forex)
- No mutual funds or options trading
- Cash accounts only–no margin trading
How Does Public Work?
Public is similar to other investing apps with several neat twists. Designed to allow anyone access to investing, Public allows users to invest in the company of their choosing with as little as $1. Instead of waiting to afford a full share to purchase stocks, investors can buy fractional shares.
Public allows investors to research by theme and by individual companies. To help investors grow their strategy, Public also has a social component. This community feature allows you to see what other Public investors are buying and selling.
How Do I Open a Public Account?
If you’ve got a dollar, you can start investing with Public! So how do you set up your Public account? The whole process is pretty straightforward.
First, you want to make sure you meet the requirements to open a Public account.
Public users must:
- Be 18 years old
- Have a legal US address
- Have a Social Security Number
- Be a US citizen or permanent resident (or have a valid visa)
Opening a Public Account
It’s important to note that Public is an investing app. That means that you need to get started in the App store to open an account.
Download the Public app for your Apple or Android device. (You can also enter your mobile number on their website and they will text you a link to the app!)
Create an account using the prompts on the screen of your mobile device.
Enter your personal information and complete the investment application.
Wait for your investment application to be approved.
Grab your free stock so you can start investing and make sure you also fund your Public account.
How to Fund a Public Account
After you created your Public account, you want to get started building your portfolio. Do do that, you have to fund your Public account.
There are five different ways that you can fund your Public account:
- Use Plaid
- Link with microdeposits
- Fund with a debit card
- Mail a check
- Set up a wire transfer
Plaid is a third-party tool that allows you to connect the Public app to your bank by simply providing your banking credentials. It is worth noting that not all financial institutions work with Plaid.
You can also manually link the Public app to your bank account. Public will then make two micro deposits for a few cents in your account. You will enter the micro deposit amount to confirm that your account information is correct and your account is active. This process can take up to a week to complete.
If you need faster buying power, you can use your debit card to fund your account with up to $1,000. You cannot currently transfer money out of Public to a debit card, so you will want to link another bank account as well.
You also have the option of mailing Public a check to add funds to your account.
Finally, you can also complete a wire transfer to add money to Public.
Public Features and Benefits
It’s true that investing apps all start to blur together after a while. That’s why we were really curious when we heard about yet another investing app that was growing in popularity. What made Public stand out enough for people to start downloading and using the app?
It turns out that their mission of making investing accessible to all caught a lot of people’s attention. Plus, there are other unique twists to some of the Public features and benefits.
No Commissions & No Minimums
Public allows investors to buy and sell stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrency for no commission. That’s right. Investors pay $0 in commission to use the Public app.
There are also no minimums required to open an account. Investors can start trading with as little as $1. As long as you meet their account requirements, you can start investing the moment you’re approved.
When you set up your Public account, you create a public investor profile. As you use the app, you also get access to the public profiles of other investors. You never know who you might find on the app, as there have even been some celebrity sightings. This social feature is a really compelling way to see different investing strategies and learn from others as you grow your portfolio.
Public does allow users to invest in cryptocurrency, along with stocks and ETFs. Public works with Apex Crypto to allow investors to buy and sell over 25 coins and tokens. Some of the most common crypto available through the Public app is Bitcoin, Solana, Cardano, and Ethereum.
Public prides itself on allowing people to invest in any company with any amount of money. To make their philosophy come to life, they use fractional shares.
Before fractional shares, investors had to have enough cash to cover the cost of a full share. The problem is that it left a lot of people on the sidelines. When a company’s stock is really expensive–here’s looking at you, Amazon!–investors miss out on months or years of growth while they save. So fractional shares slice up the stock, allowing investors to own a stock as a much more affordable buy-in price.
Have you ever wanted to ask the leaders of your favorite companies a question? Then you don’t want to miss out on Public Town Halls. These virtual events bring the executives of major companies to the people.
Public users can submit questions to unlock business insight and learn more about the companies they invest in. Previous companies featured in Public Town Halls include companies from Barstool Sports and DuoLingo to Bumble and DraftKings.
Public Investment Options
The Public app doesn’t offer much as far as account types go. But what they lack in variety, they more than make up for in investment option features.
Here are some Public investment options worth understanding:
Automatic Dividend Reinvesting
Investing is all about growing your wealth. Reinvesting your dividends is one way to keep your money snowballing. Thanks to Public’s automatic dividend reinvesting feature, it’s easier than ever. By enabling DRIP in the app, you can keep purchasing more stocks with your dividends without having to lift a finger.
In your account setting, click Account and then check Dividend Reinvesting. In a matter of seconds, you can set up your account in a way that will keep your money growing automatically.
Building your own portfolio is no small task. For active investors who are looking for some additional insight, check out Public Themes. The Themes on the Public app group companies based on industries, trends, and social causes.
Some Public Themes include:
- Travel & Leisure
- Women in Charge
- Diverse Leadership
- Plant-Based Movement
- Combat Carbon
After selecting a theme, you can browse the different stocks and ETFs aligned with that theme. Whether you are looking to support cutting edge technology or want to build a socially responsible portfolio, Public Themes make it easy. Check out the full list of Themes on the site or in the app.
Investors who are looking for dedicated retirement accounts need to look elsewhere. Public currently only offers taxable brokerage accounts. You can certainly use your Public account for long-term investing. In fact, Public has a feature that allows you to earmark which investments you plan to hold for the long run.
Still, if you are looking for the tax-benefits of a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA, you won’t find those account options at Public.
Investors want to grow their money, so it’s important to pay close attention to fees. After all, high fees can quickly undercut the growth of your account.
This is one area where Public really shines. Public fees are low. So low, in fact, that they’re actually zero in most cases. Stocks, ETFs, and crypto trade for no commission fees. You also don’t have to worry about an account minimum.
You are subject to the same SEC trading fees that you’ll find across brokerages. But the amount is so small, it’s literal pennies for most investors.
Public is a relatively new name in the investing world. Not only that, but they bring a fresh concept to investing with their themes and community features. Now that they sparked your curiosity, you probably have some questions about this newbie investing app.
We took a deep dive into the Public app frequently asked questions, and now we’re ready to spill all the answers.
Is Public Safe?
You’re considering downloading the app but you might also be wondering if Public is safe. It is!
Public encourages all users to set up biometric authentication. That means that your Public account stays safe even if you lose your phone because you need your face or fingerprint to open the app. Two-factor identification also ensures that you are only using the Public app with your registered device.
Public also encourages users to set up their account with strong passwords and to regularly monitor their account activity. With a focus on cybersecurity, Public uses bank grade encryption to protect your account data.
Additionally, Public is a member of SIPC, or the Securities Investor Protection Corporation. That means that users’ accounts up to $500,000 are protected if Public goes under. Investors should note that all accounts are subject to loss based on the market. SIPC protection only applies to Public itself, not the stock market. As a result, it’s worth remembering that investing in stocks carries the risk of loss.
Can I Have a Public Account If I’m Under 18?
To invest, you must be 18 years old. However, if you are under 18, you can still have a Public account. Your account is inactive, meaning you won’t be able to buy or sell. But you can still follow other investors and learn more about different investment strategies.
How Do I Contact Public?
If you need account support, you can reach out to the Public team by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or using the Live Chat feature in the Public app.
Is Public Good for Beginners?
Yes! Public is great for a specific type of beginner. Namely beginners who are interested in active investing. The low fees mean you keep more of your money. Plus, the ability to invest in fractional shares with as little as a dollar means that you can start investing right away. There’s no more waiting to meet a minimum account requirement to access a certain fund or saving up to purchase a full share.
Another way the Public app is good for beginners is that it allows investors under the age of 18 to have inactive accounts. With an inactive account, you can observe different strategies to learn more about investing, as well as familiarize yourself with some of the account features. Then, when you turn 18, you can convert your account status to active and begin investing.
Where Public falls flat is for beginners who want more support or prefer a passive approach to investing. Public does not offer any human or roboadvising at this time.
How Much Do I Need To Invest With Public?
$1. If you want to get started investing with Public, you need the Public app and a dollar. There are no minimums to open an account, and you can purchase fractional shares with as little as a buck.
Bottom Line: Is Public Worth It?
Public isn’t going to be able to compete with full-service brokerages like Vanguard or M1 Finance. If you want full-service options or even just a dedicated retirement account, you’ll have to look elsewhere. But Public certainly shines when you view it as a micro-investing platform for active investors.
The concept of micro-investing is to allow individuals to invest small amounts of money into the stock market and other securities. Public does precisely that thanks to its fractional shares. You can start investing in your favorite companies for as little as one dollar.
So if you are someone who wants to build your own portfolio right from the start, Public is an excellent option to consider. You can buy and sell stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrency commission free. Plus, there are no account minimums.
But if you are someone who wants more account types, passive investing options, or support, Public isn’t the choice for you.
Worried that the Public investing app doesn’t tick all the boxes in your investing criteria? That’s OK! Take some time to explore our favorite investing apps for 2021.
When you’re done, dive into these Public alternatives:
When it comes to micro-investing, Acorns can’t be beat. They first made a name for themselves with the Round Up feature. This feature allows investors to round up the spare change from purchases and start investing with just a few coins. The definition of micro, right?
In addition to rounding up, you can also invest more traditionally. Users should also note that as Acorns grew, they added more account options. If the concept of micro-investing is appealing to you but you were hoping for a more passive investing approach or looking for retirement account options, Acorns is worth a look.
See our full Acorns review here.
Webull fills in some gaps that Public has. For instance, margin investing is becoming increasingly popular. While Public only allows cash accounts, Webull gives investors access to margin accounts. Additionally, Webull also allows users to invest in options. Just like their stocks, ETFs, and cryptocurrency, options trade commission free. As an added bonus, there are no contract fees.
Webull also does a fantastic job of enticing investors to open new accounts with various promotions. Currently, they offer free stock for opening an account and then two more free stocks for funding your account. But the fun doesn’t stop once you open your account. You can continue to rack up incentives with the Webull referral bonuses as well.
Check out our full Webull review here.
Sometimes you just need to stick with the original. When it comes to low cost brokerages offering an array of services, you can’t beat Vanguard. Vanguard certainly offers plenty of opportunities for active investing. But they also offer a range of passive investment options, including Target Date Funds, a roboadvisor, and human advisor options.
The app is nowhere as clean as Public (but it did get a recent upgrade!) and the social component is missing. But it might be a worthwhile trade if you’re looking for a brokerage with a variety of account options that still prioritizes low cost.
See our full Vanguard review here.