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 rebrand 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 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.
- Commission-free investing app with no minimum deposit
- Allowing investing in fractional shares
- Community of traders and investors
Public Investing App Details
What Is Public?
Public is an app-based stock brokerage company that doesn’t charge commissions on trades. 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 then changed the front-facing name of the company to Public.
Public was founded in 2017. There are four founders: Jannick Malling, Matt Kennedy, Peter Quinn, and Sean Hendelman. Public has had three funding rounds: a September 2018 seed round of $2 million and a March 2019 Series A round of $6.5 million. Public recently announced a series B funding round worth $15 million. Investors included Will Smith (via his Dreamers VC), NFL star J.J. Watt, and Girlboss CEO Sophia Amoruso. Accel and Greycroft, prior investors from Public's A round, co-led the Series B.
What Do They Offer?
Public provides commission-free brokerage services for trading stocks 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 4.3/5.0 out of 2,400 ratings. The Android app has a rating of 4.5/6.00 out of 408 ratings. The Android app is newer that the iOS app and they are pushing out updates consistently.
There is 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. 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 Fracitonal 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 2,800 public 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 do not 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.
For those who day-trade, Public may not be the best option. They allow periodic day trading, but if it is 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.
If you are looking to trade, look for an app that specializes in trading like WeBull.
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.
Is My Money Safe?
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.
Is It Worth It?
There are similar commission-free brokerages available. Most have some social aspect, and the quality of the social component is what really sets each of 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.
- Commission and Fees - 100
- Ease of Use - 80
- Customer Service - 80
- Products and Services - 80
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.