Public Investing App Review: Commission Free Trading for Affordable Investing

Successful investors, like Warren Buffett and Jim Collins, will tell you there’s great money to be made by investing in the stock market. Unfortunately, not everyone has the bandwidth to buy whole shares of stocks in successful companies. This is where the Public investing app comes in.

Public helps make investing possible for a larger audience of people. We’re going to delve into what Public has to offer, so you can see if using the Public Investing app might be a good way for you to start investing.

Table of Contents
  1. What is the Public Investing App?
  2. What is Public’s History?
  3. How Can I Open a Public Investing Account?
  4. Who is Eligible for a Public Account?
  5. How Does Public Work?
  6. What Stocks Can I Buy?
  7. How Much Does Public Cost?
  8. How Does Public Make Money?
  9. Is Public Safe?
  10. What Else Should I Know About Public?
  11. Public Investing App Pros and Cons
    1. Pros
    2. Cons
  12. Final Verdict

What is the Public Investing App?

Simply put, Public is an investing app that allows you to buy “slices” of stocks instead of purchasing whole stock shares.

For instance, let’s say you want to invest in a company such as Amazon.

As of this writing, Amazon stock shares sell in or around the area of $2,300 each. You might not have $2,300+ to buy a share of Amazon stock.

With Public, you can buy a “slice” of a stock share in Amazon for as little as $1. Public’s $1 minimum price for share slices makes investing more affordable to a larger group of people than traditional per-share stock purchases.

The minimum to open your Public account is $0, so you can start your Public account for as little as you want. Then, when your balance builds up to at least $1, you can start purchasing slices of stocks.

What is Public’s History?

Public was founded in 2017 and started out as the Matador investing app. When the company decided to rebrand as Public, they cleaned up their app and made it easier to use.

They still focus on their primary goal: to help open investing to a broader audience by making stock purchases more affordable.

How Can I Open a Public Investing Account?

Public is easy to use–even for beginner investors. When you click on a link to the Public home page, you’ll see a box that says “text me the app.”

Enter your phone number, click on the box and you’ll be sent a link to the app on your phone. Click on the link, and it’ll take you to the Apple iOS store or Android store where you can install the app.

Once you install the app, you can hit the “open” button. From there, you’ll hit the “get started” button and follow the directions. It’s pretty easy, honestly.

After your account is opened, you’ll link your Public account to your bank account, so you can start depositing money into your Public account. Then you’re ready to invest.

Who is Eligible for a Public Account?

There are a few criteria you need to meet to be eligible to open an account with Public. You need to:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Have a valid U.S. social security number
  • Be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. permanent resident or have a resident visa
  • Have a legal U.S. residential address

If you meet these requirements, you are eligible to open a Public investing account.

How Does Public Work?

Okay, so you’ve followed the directions above and opened your Public account. Now what?

Once your account is opened and you’ve deposited money into it, you’ll be taken to a page on your phone that says, “Pick your interest.”

You can choose from a variety of categories, such as Tech Giants or Media and Entertainment; or you can choose to follow a specific investor in the Public community. Choosing your interest can help you get connected with like-minded people in the Public community.

However, you can always use the search icon on the app to find specific stocks in any business category. Once you decide on a company, you can move forward to purchase stock slices.

Note that you can buy whole shares of stock as well. But if you want to spend less, you can buy a stock slice for as little as $1.

When you find a stock that you want to purchase a slice of, you simply enter the amount of money you want to invest in that company’s stock. Public makes the purchase for you, and you’re on your way.

What Stocks Can I Buy?

Public offers more than 1,000 stocks and EFTs you can buy in slices. The app offers over 5,000 stocks as a whole, but the stocks you can buy in slices are limited to a specific group.

You’ll find most of the popular stocks in the “slice” group, such as Coca-Cola, 3M, Colgate-Palmolive and more. With over 1,000 companies listed in the “slice” group, you’re almost sure to find something you like.

How Much Does Public Cost?

This is the good part: Trading stocks with the Public app is free in most instances. You won’t pay anything to open your account, and you won’t pay anything to trade stock slices.

However, there are some other fees the company has that you should be aware of:

  • Broker-assisted phone trades cost $30
  • If you transfer your entire Public account to another brokerage, you’ll pay $75)
  • Paper statements are $35
  • Domestic wire transfers are $30
  • Domestic overnight checks are $35
  • Returned checks, stop payments, wires or ACH transfers are $30

There may be other fees for special services too; however, basic trading is free, and there are no monthly or annual service charges. Also, some trades might incur small fees on occasion.

Note that there’s no fee at all (from Public) to transfer money from another brokerage account to Public. If the brokerage you’re transferring from charges you a fee, tell a Public customer service rep about it; they may cover the fee for you.

How Does Public Make Money?

Okay, so you may be wondering: what’s the catch? If Public doesn’t charge you for trades, how do they make money?

Have you ever heard of someone shorting a stock? That’s where they make a bet that the price of a stock will go down. To short a stock, you borrow shares from someone and promise to pay them back for it later. You sell them now, wait for the stock to drop, then buy it back and return the shares. Public lends out shares of stock to people who want to short them and gets paid for it.

To a lesser degree, Public also earns money by investing you cash balances. This currently is quite low (as you’d imagine) so it represents a very small piece.

Lastly, they also make money through “smart order routing.” Smart order routing means the clearing firm sells your shares to certain people. You should always get the best price but Public gets rebates on the transactions. (lastly, and this isn’t live yet, they may offer premium subscription services but that’s down the road)

These types of investing practices allow Public to offer free trading to its members and still make money.

Is Public Safe?

The Public investing app is safe and secure. Your investments are insured by the SIPC (Securities Investor Protection Corporation) for up to $500,000 per individual account.

Public uses AES 128-bit encryption and TLS 1.2 to secure your data.

What Else Should I Know About Public?

There are a few other things you should know about the Public Investing app. First, the app thrives off of its community. When you become a Public member, you can see what other members are trading, and you can learn from subject matter experts in the community too.

Once you’ve selected your favorite stock interest category, you’ll get a watch list that shows you how stocks in that category are performing. These tools can keep you up to date on investment happenings.

By studying community members and subject matter experts, you can learn more about the do’s and don’ts of investing.

Public has a referral program as well. When you refer friends or family members that open accounts and trade on Public, you can earn free stock.

Note that Public investing accounts aren’t meant for day trading. Public account holders that participate in frequent day trading run the risk of getting their accounts restricted.

Public Investing App Pros and Cons

Pros

  • $0 minimum account balance, $1 minimum trade, no commissions.
  • Ability to buy fractional shares (slices) in real-time
  • Referral program to earn free stock
  • Public community can be a great way to be involved with, and learn more about, the investing world.

Cons

  • You’re on your own to invest as you see fit, minus what you learn from the Public subject matter experts
  • $30 per share for broker-assisted trading if you want some help.
  • No day-trading (account will be subject to restrictions)
  • No OTC (over-the-counter) stocks
  • Only available in the United States

Final Verdict

The Public investing app, like other commission-free brokerages, can be a good way to start investing affordably. With the ability to buy fractional shares, it makes it very useful for new investors who don’t have a lot of money to commit to the markets.

There is also a strong social element to investing, with the ability to interact with the community and feel like it’s more than just a place to buy and sell shares (or slices of shares) of stock.

As with any investment, the stocks you purchase using Public can lose money. That’s just part of the process when it comes to investing. If you’re comfortable with the risks, the Public app can help you invest in stocks while avoiding per-trade fees.

There are other similar apps, such as Webull and Robinhood, that offer free trades, fractional shares, and an app interface; so Public isn’t the only game in town. Both also offer free stock when you sign up, which can be a nice little bonus to try out their platforms.

Related: Check out our Webull Review and Robinhood Review.

Have you ever used Public? Have you used other commission-free brokerages? If so, what was your experience? Feel free to leave us a comment sharing your experience.

Public Investing App

8.5

Product Rating

8.5/10

Strengths

  • Free real-time trades on fractional shares
  • Referral program
  • No minimum balance
  • $1 minimum per "slice"

Weaknesses

  • $30 broker assisted trades (if you ever need them)
  • Only United States
  • No OTC stocks

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About Laurie Blank

Laurie Blank is a blogger, freelance writer, and mother of four. She’s psyched about teaching others how to manage their money in a way that aligns with their values and has been quoted in Bankrate.

She's a licensed Realtor with Edina Realty in Minneapolis, Minnesota (also licensed in Wisconsin too) and has been freelance writing for over six years.

She shares powerful insights on her blog, Great Passive Income Ideas, that will show you how you can create passive income sources of your own.

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