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Public is an investing app that makes it possible to own shares in the companies you believe in for any amount of money, all commission-free.
Public is unique from other apps because it has a social layer that offers transparency into investments made within the community.
In the app, you can choose to connect with friends and thought leaders to learn about companies and discover new stocks. If you’re just getting into investing and wondering, “Where do I start?” then, seeing what others are doing is a useful way to learn.
Public is free to download and is available both on iOS and Android devices.
Public is not the first commission-free trading app, however, they’re trying to stand out with several competitive features.
Public’s largest draw is the ability to purchase any stock for any amount of money. You could start investing with little money through what they call Slices.
With many brokerages, you can only buy full shares, which means that if you want to invest in companies like Amazon, Google, or Berkshire Hathaway, (to name a few), you’d have to shell out thousands to become a shareholder.
With Public, users pick their stock and enter the amount they would like to invest, and Public “slices” off a portion of a share to fit the desired price.
Now, not all stocks are available as Slices, yet. Still, Public offers more than 1,000 tickers available for slices (including ETFs). Public sends weekly emails notifying you of which new Slices have been rolled out.
Community of Investors
The traditional financial world can feel like an exclusive club, with knowledge-sharing limited to the few. Public has flipped the script by building a transparent community in which investments are put out in the open.
Public is the first investing app to offer social engagement features, and though sharing is optional, they are core to the experience. Most other apps offer a siloed experience — just you and your account — but Public has built their app to provide value to users through the collective wisdom of their network.
As an investor, not only can you browse stocks, but you can also find friends and other investors to connect with, many of which are subject matter experts. By engaging with others, you can share investment strategies and discover new companies to explore and perhaps even buy.
Public also aims to make it easy to find stocks that align with your values and interests through curated themes. Themes are simply bundles of stocks that are grouped under a central theme for the sake of discovery. Some of these themes include:
- Tech Giants: The most influential and powerful tech companies, which include Netflix (NFLX), Alphabet (GOOGL), Oracle (ORCL), Amazon (AMZN), Facebook (FB), etc.
- The Future is Female: S&P 500 companies led by female CEOs, which include General Motors (GM), Kohl’s (KSS), IBM (IBM), Eventbrite (EB), Progressive (PGR), etc.
- Clean and Green: Environmentally-friendly companies, which include Vivint Solar (VSLR), Waste Management (WM), Ecolab (ECL), Darling Ingredients (DAR), etc.
These are just a few. Public has dozens of fun and interesting themes for users to browse, and they are continually rolling out new ones to follow.
Fractional investing features are becoming more commonplace, but Public approaches theirs a bit differently.
They are the first brokerage that allows you to buy fractional shares and trade in real-time. Why does this matter? With most, when purchasing fractional shares, you aren’t actually purchasing the stocks at the moment you hit the “buy” button — even if the market is open.
This delay means that there could be shifts in the stock price from the time you place your order to when the trading window opens. Without real-time fractional trading, your order is saved and executed during a trading window the next day.
With Public, as long as the market is open, your trade is executed at the same time.
An added perk of being a Public investor is that any settled, uninvested cash in your account earns 2.5% interest.
Let’s say you deposit $500 and invest $200 by purchasing stocks. The remaining $300 that’s uninvested is growing just by sitting there.
Public does cap the amount of cash you can earn interest on at $10,000, so while you can deposit as much as you’d like, you’ll only earn 2.5% on up to $10,000.
What are the fees?
Public is the real deal when it comes to being free from commissions. However, you may still incur small exchange fees from your trades.
They also charge fees for certain services, which we’ve listed below:
- 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
Like other investing apps, Public will reward you and your friends if you share your referral link, and they successfully open an account.
In the app, you can find your share link, which gives you and your friends a free slice of stock upon sign up.
Public is SIPC-insured, so each customer is protected up to $500,000 in securities and a limit of $250,000 in cash.
They also use AES 128-bit encryption and TLS 1.2 to secure data.
If you’re looking to make bigger bets on a daily basis, a practice that is commonly known as day-trading, then Public might not be right for you.
Focused on longer-term investing strategies, Public will restrict users from making a high volume of trades in a day. Each user is allowed up to four violations for day-trading before your account is restricted.
Public also does not trade any over the counter (OTC) stocks, which are stocks not listed on the major exchanges. While they allow you to trade almost any stock or ETF, you’ll have to go elsewhere if not having access to OTC stocks is a dealbreaker for you.
Two additional features worth noting that Public does not offer are after-hours trading and the ability to invest in cryptocurrencies.
Is Public Investing for You?
Public’s mission to level the playing field in the public market is noble, and offering a platform that’s free of charge is definitely reason enough to give them a try.
While it might not be the right choice for a stereotypical day-trader, it’s great for the novice and intermediate investors looking to take control of their investments.
Their interface is intuitive and straightforward, and with a low barrier of entry, it’s worth a shot.