Public App Review

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Investing can be tricky, especially if you are trying to get started with a limited amount of money. It may seem impossible to buy entire shares of stock or test the waters with cryptocurrency.

Whether you are a new or experienced investor, Public can make it easy to invest in stocks and ETFs since you can buy shares in $1 increments while avoiding trading fees. It’s also possible to invest in cryptocurrencies.

This Public review can help you learn more about this free investing app and whether it’s a good fit for your investment style.

public app
3.7
Overall Rating

Summary

You can trade stocks, ETFs and crypto with a $1 investment minimum and interact with other investors with Public. However, you can only open taxable accounts and there are no charting tools that experienced investors may need.

  • Ease of use

    4

  • Investment options

    4.5

  • Social media features

    4

  • Account options

    2.5

  • Research tools

    3.5

Pros

  • $1 fractional shares
  • No trading fees
  • Social media platform

Cons

  • Mobile devices only
  • No retirement account
  • Minimal research tools

What is Public?

Public is a fee-free mobile-only app exclusively for Apple and Android devices. You can invest in stocks, ETFs and cryptocurrency with a $1 minimum investment.

It’s free to create a taxable brokerage account. Unfortunately, retirement accounts and custodial accounts are currently unavailable.

This platform also has an extensive social media platform where you can follow other app users and send messages to each other. It even lets you see what positions the investor currently holds.

When researching potential investments, you can view the recent buys and sells from other members. If they sell a position, you can see their realized profit or loss and their investment period. 

Another unique benefit of investing with Public is that the service doesn’t accept payment for order flows (PFOF) like other free investing apps might do. This helps you avoid extra fees.

Who is Public For?

You should consider Public if you’re an investor who wants to invest small amounts of money at a time. A $1 investment minimum is one of the lowest thresholds available.

This service can be excellent for new investors who want an easy-to-use platform with basic research tools. 

Experienced investors may also appreciate this app for its social investing features. Most apps don’t let you connect with other investors to get trading ideas and see other portfolios.

However, this service isn’t a good fit for investors wanting in-depth stock research tools for fundamental or technical analysis. 

Another downside is the lack of retirement accounts since these are beneficial for long-term investing.

How Does Public Work?

Here is an in-depth look at how the Public App works for investing.

Download the App

First, you need to download the app on your Android or iOS device. You can enter your phone number on the Public App site to receive a download link.

Create a Profile

After installing the app, you create a public username and upload a picture to build your social investing profile. 

Then, you can start following other app users. Others can follow you as well.

The social media platform offers the following features:

  • Send messages
  • View their current holdings (but not their asset allocation)
  • Read social media posts

It’s also possible to change your portfolio and stock trades to private so others won’t see your transactions.

Fund Your Account

You don’t have to make a minimum initial deposit to open your account. It’s possible to deposit as little as $1 at a time.

There are four different ways to fund your account:

  • Debit card
  • Bank account
  • Wire transfer
  • Microdeposits

It can take up to five business days for the funds to deposit into your account. However, you might get instant buying power for the transfer amount, allowing you to immediately buy stocks.

You can also transfer an existing taxable brokerage account to consolidate your holdings. While Public doesn’t charge a transfer fee, your old brokerage might. 

Thankfully, the app reimburses any account withdrawal fees your existing broker charges.

Choose Your Stocks

Once you have money to invest, you can start buying assets.

Your investment options include:

  • Stocks
  • ETFs
  • Cryptocurrencies

The investment minimum is $1 for any equity or crypto. 

You can see highlighted stocks and ETFs that might be announcing earnings this week, fit an investing theme or have a notable price move.

The platform features member accounts that you can follow to view their portfolio and watchlists.

You can also enter the name of a company or ETF to retrieve the stock page and perform some basic research. 

Some of the research features include:

  • Historical price chart
  • Earnings data
  • Analyst ratings
  • Target stock price

The app even displays recent community messages where other investors share their thoughts on whether they are bullish or bearish on that particular ticker.

Track Your Investments

After building your initial portfolio, Public displays the total performance for your portfolio and individual positions.

Since you may decide to use this app for short-term and long-term trading, you can sort your portfolio by your planned holding time. 

The app gently reminds you that you’re selling a long-term position when you try to sell long-term positions with a minimum one-year investment horizon. 

You can easily add to a position or sell shares by tapping the holding details in your portfolio. The service can also automatically reinvest your dividends to buy more shares.

Unlike other investment tracking tools, you’re unable to track holdings outside of the platform.

Public Features

These tools and services help set Public apart from other investing apps.

Instant and Real-Time Fractional Stocks

You can purchase partial shares of any stock, ETF or cryptocurrency in $1 increments. 

It’s also possible to trade stocks and funds at any time when the stock market is open. 

Other apps may require you to submit your orders before a once-a-day trading window. Again, this flexibility can help you get a better entry or exit price for short-term trades.

The app buys fractional shares at the current market price. 

If you have sufficient funds to purchase whole shares, you can submit limit orders and stop orders that only execute trade requests at a specific price point. 

Cryptocurrencies trade 24/7 except for the daily maintenance period from 5:30-6:05 p.m. Eastern.

Categorization

Categorizing your investments can prevent you from accidentally selling equities too soon if you plan to swing trade some stocks.

For example, you might designate your core holdings like index funds as a long-term holding. When you view your portfolio, the app displays your short-term holdings first, and you will need to scroll down to view your long-term assets.

You can sort your portfolio holdings into the following categories:

  • Short-term investing
  • Long-term investing
  • Watch list

If you try selling a long-term position, the app reminds you that you’re selling a stock you intend on holding for at least one year. The reminder also shows how long you have owned the position.

Community Forum

Public describes itself as a social investing app since you can interact with other investors. Most online brokerages only show your portfolio details, and you must go to another platform to swap investing ideas.

This forum and your daily portfolio performance are the two features you see when opening the app.

You can post brief messages about why you’re trading a stock or adding it to your watchlist. 

Other members will also share their thoughts about a particular symbol or investment theme. 

You and others can personalize your posts with these details:

  • Screenshots
  • Social media videos (i.e., TikTok and Instagram)
  • Links to relevant articles
  • Hashtags

This feature can help you get some investing ideas and general advice from other investors. Keep in mind that their investment experience can vary, and you should perform your due diligence before placing a trade.

High-Interest Cash Accounts

The service no longer offers a high-yield savings account. Instead, this app focuses on helping you invest in stocks and crypto commission-free with $1 fractional trades.

You will need to invest in dividend stocks to earn recurring income.

However, your uninvested cash can be eligible for up to $500,000 in SIPC coverage if the app closes.

Referral Program

If you like the Public App, you can start referring friends by sharing your invite link. You will each get a free stock share worth up to $70.

Unlike other stock referral programs that give you a random stock, you get to choose from nine different companies.

This option means you’re more likely to get a high-quality stock that can be a natural fit for your portfolio. 

You can receive up to $500 in free stock each year.

Town Hall

You can attend virtual town hall sessions with CEOs from various industries. It’s possible to ask questions to learn more about their company. 

If you miss the live session, you can access the transcripts later. 

In addition to this educational tool, some of the other learning features include:

  • Investment term definitions
  • Explanations about why a stock price is rising or declining
  • Articles about how investments work
  • Warning labels to identify risky and volatile assets

Public Fees

Public lets you buy stocks for free. Most likely, you will only pay a fee if you decide to close your investing account at a later date. 

You won’t pay these standard investing fees:

  • Account service fees
  • Trading commissions for stocks and ETFs
  • Portfolio transfers to Public

As you can only open taxable brokerage accounts, each stock sale is a reportable event. You will receive a 1099 tax form at the end of the year to report your investment gains and losses.

Here are some of the fees you might pay:

  • Cryptocurrency transactions: 1% to 2% markup
  • Account closure: $75 to transfer your account to another brokerage
  • Paper statements: $5

It’s possible that the only fee you’ll pay is if you decide to transfer your investment account to a different online brokerage.

You can avoid the transfer-out fee by selling your assets and transferring the cash to your bank account. Unfortunately, you will need to report the sale details on your income taxes.

As the platform stopped accepting payment for order flow (PFOF) in early 2021, you can leave an optional tip when trading stock to cover operating costs.

The platform also makes money by earning interest on your uninvested cash balances and lending your shares to other institutions.

There are currently no premium subscription features. That said, the app intends on rolling out optional services in the future.

FAQs

Here are some questions to give you a better idea about how the Public App works.

Is Public safe?

Public uses bank-level security to protect your portfolio. Your account is eligible for up to $500,000 in SIPC coverage. 

This insurance can protect your portfolio if the app closes, but it doesn’t reimburse ordinary stock market losses. In general, investing can be risky, so keep that in mind before putting your money on the line.

You may also want to avoid placing personal details like your full name or location in your user profile. These details can be accessible to others in the community forums.

What customer service options does Public offer?

You can send a message or use the live chat in the app. It’s possible to receive a response within a few hours for most messages. 

There are also many online knowledge articles that you can read 24/7.

Is Public easy to use?

Yes. The app is pretty easy to navigate for new and experienced investors as the investment options are straightforward. It’s also easy to interact with others on the social media platform.

However, the app mainly focuses on your current account positions and social community.

Researching potential investments with the stock screener is somewhat tricky as there are minimal search filters. 

The app doesn’t offer margin accounts or options, which can also complicate the user experience.

Can you buy partial or full shares of stock with Public?

Yes. You can purchase partial and whole shares of stocks, ETFs and crypto. However, your order type determines your investment minimum.

Partial shares are only available at the current market price when you submit your trading request.

If you want a stop order or limit order that only executes at a particular trading price, you must purchase full shares.

What Others Are Saying

Here are some details about what other users are saying about the app.

BBB

The BBB rating is currently 3.41 out of 5 stars with 27 customer reviews.

Some of the BBB reviews include:

“It’s the easiest place to trade hands down. They make everything simple to help your needs. Great bunch of people and I’d highly recommend them.” – Jeff H.

“I have had 4 (extremely minor) issues since joining Public. Within minutes, I was connected to someone (like a real person, not a bot), who not only handled my issue, but made me feel like the most important client they’ve ever had. I know my portfolio is small compared to probably 95% of their clients, but that didn’t matter.” – David W.

Apple App Store

The current Apple App Store rating is 4.7 out of 5 stars with over 24.9k ratings.

Some of the recent reviews include:

“This is not a day trading app and the various transactions can take time, but by keeping money in your account without spending it allows you to execute buy and sell orders quickly, though the money may take a few days to get back to your public account.” – Jtf199876

“I enjoy the interactivity of the app as well as getting live updates and having all the stock news streamlined and easily available…Use it with some money you have to play around but not your whole entire portfolio.” – katedgrate 

Google Play

The app’s Google Play rating is 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 19k ratings.

Recent testimonials include:

“Public is a really cool app. I think it’s definitely geared to the beginner to intermediate investor and the more long term buy and hold person.” – Christopher S.

“I’m new to investing and this app is very easy to learn on. I wish they had more tools added in. charts, graphs to track our own progress. There’s always room for improvement and I have every faith that they will continue to improve the app”. – Tina A.

Summary

Public is best for beginner investors looking to make their first trades and those who want to invest small amounts of money

The $1 fractional investing and many investment options can make it easy to build a self-diversified portfolio that you manage.

You will want to consider another app if you want charting tools, retirement accounts and a web or desktop platform.

However, if you are looking for a fee-free platform to invest in stocks, ETFs and cryptocurrency, Public is worth checking out.

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