In the race to free trading and fractional shares, there are new companies popping up all the time. But Public isn’t new – it’s actually a re-brand of one of the first app-based investing products called Matador.
However, they have cleaned up their app, made it easier to use, and continue to focus on their social network features. Plus, they offer commission-free investing and fractional share investing.
How do they compare now that most major brokerage firms also offer commission-free trading? Let’s check it out in our Public investing app review.
What Is Public?
Public is an app-based stock brokerage company that doesn’t charge commissions on trades. It was founded in 2017. There are four founders: Jannick Malling, Matt Kennedy, Peter Quinn, and Sean Hendelman.
The company’s legal name is Public Holdings, Inc. doing business as Open to the Public Investing, Inc., a registered broker-dealer and member of FINRA and SIPC. Public used to be called Matador but later changed the front-facing name of the company to Public.
On February 17, 2021, Public announced that it had raised $220 million in a Series D round at a $1.2 billion valuation. Investors included Accel, Greycroft, and Lakestar, Will Smith (via his Dreamers VC), Intuition Capital, Tiger Global, The Chainsmokers’ Mantis VC, and more.
What Do They Offer?
Public provides commission-free brokerage services for trading stocks or ETFs in small units, called slices. By slicing stock shares into smaller units, Public makes them accessible to more people. Instead of paying by the share, you pay by the dollar.
Everything is done through the Public mobile app, which is available for iOS and Android. The iOS app has a rating of 4.7/5.0 out of over 18,300 ratings. The Android app has a rating of 4.5/5.0 out of more than 13,200 ratings. Both apps seem to push out updates consistently.
There’s also a community of traders. Some of them are subject matter experts. In the community, you can follow traders and see the trades they’re making. You can also share different trading and investment ideas. Public says that it’s essentially a social network for investing.
Moreover, Public curates stocks within Themes to help people discover companies based on trends and personal interests. Themes include Green Power (green energy stocks and ETFs), Self-Driving Cars, Women in Charge (female-led companies), and dozens more.
You can also DM or build a group chat with other traders. There are a lot of chats around specific stocks, specific industries, and there are even chats that happen during earnings calls so investors can trade notes. This is chat designed for investors, so you can even embed custom charts.
Reinvest Dividends And Fractional Shares
For stocks that pay dividends, you have the option to reinvest the dividend back into the stock. Public does not charge a fee for this service. If you’d like to reinvest your dividends, contact Public through the app’s chat feature.
They are also one of a growing number of companies that allow you to invest in fractional shares – which means that you can get started investing in pricier stocks with less capital up front.
There are over 5,000 common stocks and ETFs on Public. OTC (over-the-counter) stocks are not offered. OTC stocks aren’t available because Public considers them too risky.
OTC stocks don’t have the same regulatory or reporting requirements as stocks on larger exchanges such as the NYSE or NASDAQ. We also like that Public offers Safety Labels. These are labels they will put on certain stocks that are considered very risky.
No Payment For Order Flow (PFOF)
As commission-free trading has quickly become an industry-wide standard, brokers have had to find other ways to make money. Some platforms have chosen to generate income by routing their trades to specific clearing firms. This revenue model is referred to as Payment For Order Flow (PFOF).
PFOF has been much maligned in the investing industry as many have said that it leads to a conflict of interest for brokerages. Despite this, it’s still the primary revenue generator for several firms. However, Public isn’t one of them. It announced on February 16, 2021 that it was officially a PFOF-free brokerage.
In an effort to replace some of the lost revenue, Public added an optional tipping feature on trades. To be clear, Public does not require any of its clients to leave a tip. But doing so is one way that clients can show their support for Public’s desire to align their incentives with their customers.
For those who day-trade, Public may not be the best option. They allow periodic day trading. But if it’s done all the time, the trader’s account will be restricted. Accounts that have four or more good faith violations will be restricted for 90 days by Public’s clearing firm, Apex Clearing. They also don’t offer margin accounts.
If you are looking to trade, look for an app that specializes in trading like WeBull.
Public allows it’s users to invest in up to 30 different cryptocurrency options, including Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Litecoin, and more. New York residents are limited to just 7 options – but that’s better than most since New York is silly when it comes to cryptocurrency regulations.
However, Public does not offer a crypto wallet – this means you actually don’t have control over your crypto, and can’t use it to transact outside of the Public platform. As such, if you’re really interested in investing in crypto, you should use a real cryptocurrency exchange.
It appears that Public is no longer offering a high-yield cash account. See other options here: Best high yield savings accounts.
Are There Any Fees?
Public is commission-free but there may be small exchange fees incurred for trades. Additionally, there are fees for various services:
- All broker-assisted phone trades: $30
- Domestic wire transfer: $30
- Domestic overnight check: $35
- Returned check, ACH, wire and recall/stop payments: $30
- ACAT outgoing: $75
- Paper statements: $35
How Do I Open An Account?
An account can be opened through the mobile app. You can download the mobile app for iOS or Android from https://public.com. Part of the application process includes an investor profile. This is standard across brokerages.
The requirements for opening an account are:
- Being 18 years of age
- Having a valid Social Security number
- Having a legal U.S. residential address
- Being a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident, or having a valid visa
You can also transfer funds from another brokerage to Public, which Public does not charge a fee for. If the transferring firm does charge a fee, let Public know because for balances above $150, Public will cover the transfer fees from your former brokerage.
You can also fund the account with an ACH transfer from your bank. There is no minimum deposit required. Checks can be mailed in as well. Note that Public charges $75 to transfer money out of Public to another brokerage.
You may not be able to withdraw money if funds have not yet settled from recent trades.
How Does Public Compare?
Public is not the only commission-free investing app. But they are one of the few options that allow fractional-share investing and their community features are different. However, it has fewer investment options than other brokers as it does not support mutual funds, options, or bonds trades.
Check out how Public compares to some of the other popular apps here:
Is It Safe And Secure?
Yes — Public is SIPC-insured up to $500,000 in securities for each customer account. Public also uses AES 128-bit encryption and TLS 1.2 to secure data in transit.
How Do I Contact Public?
Public does not publish its customer service number. However, it does provide live chat support from within the app. You can also email their team at firstname.lastname@example.org. Their customer service hours are Monday through Friday, 9 AM and 5 PM (ET). Note that if you have a simple question, you may be able to find the answer on Public’s FAQ page.
Is It Worth It?
There are similar commission-free brokerages available. Most have some social aspect and the quality of this social component is one thing that can really set these brokerages apart. Additionally, you may gravitate to the community of one brokerage and not the other.
There’s a low barrier to entry to find out if you like Public or not. App functionality will also play a role in your decision. Is Public worth trying out? Certainly — it could turn out to be the one commission-free brokerage service that you enjoy the most.
Check out Public here >>
Let’s answer a few popular questions about Public.
Does Public have a web platform?
No, clients are only able to access and/or manage their Public accounts from within one of its mobile apps.
Can you trade mutual funds on the Public app?
No, mutual funds, options, bonds, or any other assets besides stocks and ETFs aren’t currently supported on Public’s investing platform.
How does Public make money?
A few of the ways that Public is able to generate income include securities lending, optional tipping, and earning interest on uninvested cash balances.
Does Public offer any bonuses or incentives to new clients?
Yes, new clients who are referred by someone else can receive a free stock or stock slice worth up to $70.