public app review
Updated July 22, 2021

Public.com Review: What Is This Social Media Investing Platform and How Does It Work?

Stocks
  • public.com app
    Public.com
    • Basics: Public.com is a new app and “social investing platform” that makes buying, selling, owning stocks, and interacting with other investors simple for all types of users.
    • Pros: The Public.com app lets users buy stocks and fractional shares, see what other users are investing in, and the fees for using the app — and buying and selling stocks — are virtually nonexistent.
    • Cons: The investment and account options are limited on the app; there are no auto-investment features; the social aspect can lead to some not-so-great decisions; and there’s no option to invest on your desktop.
    User Experience 8/10
     
    Fees 10/10
     
    Investment Options 3/10
     
    Research Tools 6/10
     
    Account Options 1/10
     
    Customer Support 8/10
     
    • Minimum Investment:

      $0

    • Fees:

      $0

    • Sign-Up Bonus:

      $5

    • Fractional Shares:

      Yes

We may receive a commission if you sign up or purchase through links on this page. Here's more information.

Today I’ll be reviewing the new investing app on the block, the Public.com investing app. This app is a new “social investing platform” that claims to make buying, selling, and owning stocks simple for users of all types. This app is geared toward those with novice investing experience and those decades worth of investing practice — and anyone in between. It is poised to become one of the competitors in the investment app space.

In addition to removing some of the barriers to investing, the Public.com app is currently giving away free money for signing up and opening an account. If you think Public.com is a good app for you after reading this, you’re welcome to use this link to get that free money bonus.

As a side note: While I have a referral link in this Public.com stock app review, this post is not sponsored, and Public.com isn’t aware that I’m doing this. I’m just sharing my honest opinion on the Public.com app as a user, and telling you what you should know before you start investing.

Public.com App Review

In this Public.com review, I’ll show you how the app works, how to buy stock in the app, and offer you a summary of the things I like and dislike about the investment app.

If you’re interested in earning more free stock, you can also check out my list of eleven brokerages giving away free stock right now here.

What is Public.com?

Public.com is a new commission-free brokerage app that is geared toward making stock investing accessible to the masses, and it claims to make the stock market social. It’s available for download by both iOS and Android users, and it offers users access to more than 5,000 stock options to choose from.

How Does Public.com Work?

As with the other commission-free broker apps, the Public.com app lets you easily buy and sell stocks without the high commissions or fees charged by large brokerage houses.

You can use it to:

  • Buy and sell stocks and fractional shares: Public.com offers individual brokerage accounts to users, and you can use the app to buy both full and fractional shares of the companies it lists. Investing in fractional shares will cost you as little as $1.
  • Avoid trading fees and commissions: Public.com is a commission-free brokerage app, which means that you won’t be charged trading fees or commissions when buying or selling stocks.
  • Learn about investment opportunities: You can also use the app to find information and basic details about each supported stock on the platform. Public.com lists the price history, analyst ratings, price targets, recent news, earnings events, and other useful information in the app.This gives you an idea of what you’re investing in before you take the leap.
  • Take advantage of other unique features: The ability to buy and sell stocks without paying a commission is useful, but they’re also common among the commission-free investing apps. That said, there is one thing that sets Public.com apart: it’s also a social platform.That’s right; a social platform. What makes Public.com investing unique is that it doesn’t just allow you to easily buy into companies you believe in. It also attempts to add a social aspect to the stock market, making it what has been coined a “social investing platform.”

Pro Tip:

Public.com lets you use a debit card to fund your investor account, which is useful for those who can’t — or don’t want — to link their bank accounts to a third-party app.

Public.com Features

Minimum Investment$0
Commissions$0
Fees$0
Investment OptionsInvestment Options
Sign-Up Bonus$5
Referral ProgramYes
Funding OptionsBank account
Account Types
  • Taxable
  • Savings
  • Dividend ReinvestmentYes
    Fractional SharesYes
    Tax Loss HarvestingYes
    Robo-AdvisingNo
    Automatic DepositsNo
    Desktop TradingNo
    Mobile VersionsiOS, Android
    Customer Service
  • FAQ page
  • Email [email protected]
  • Live chat via in-app chat support, available Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET
  • Twitter: https://twitter.com/public
  • Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/publichello/
  • Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PublicHello
  •  

    No minimum investment requirements

    Public.com has no minimum requirements on investments, so you can invest whatever money you have available to you.

    Share and fractional share options

    There are about 5,000 stocks and ETFs available to choose from on the Public.com app. You aren’t limited to a fixed number of shares, though. You can buy fractional shares, or “slices,” on the Public.com app. Slices are issued by the dollar amount, and you can buy any dollar amount of slices you want. That makes any stock or ETF affordable — including stocks from large companies like Amazon.

    No commissions or fees

    Public.com doesn’t charge any commissions or fees for investors who are buying or selling stocks. The app is free to download, too.

    Easy-to-earn sign-up bonus

    Public.com offers users a $5 bonus just for signing up to use the app, and you can choose what “slice” you want to invest your bonus money in.

    Referral bonuses

    You can also use the Public.com app to invite friends or family to the platform. When you send an invite to a friend or family member and they sign up, you earn a free stock worth up to $70. You can select from nine different stocks, and a portion of that stock worth up to $70 will be issued to you once your friend or family member’s account is fully approved and verified.

    Automatic dividend reinvestment

    Public.com offers users the ability to automate dividend reinvestments in the app. Once you enable DRIP, your dividends will automatically purchase more stock.

    Learn from other investors’ strategies

    The social features on the app allow you to essentially turn your personal investing strategy into an exercise in social investing. You can use the app to follow other investors and even chat with them about why they buy or sell certain stocks.

    These features allow you to essentially learn from others in the feed, which is especially useful to novice investors.

    Share what you invest in

    The social features on the Public.com app also allow you to share what you invest in. You can post your investments to the feed, create chat groups with friends, family members, or fellow community members, and tailor your feed to show you what the investors you know, or want to learn from, are doing.

    Keep track of investment news

    These features also allow you to search for investors who share your interests, follow companies listed on the platform, browse recent IPOs, and see which companies are reporting earnings soon. This keeps the interactions, and the content, fresh on your feed.

    How to Get Started With Public.com

    1. Download the free app to your device

    The first step is to download the Public.com invest app. Downloading the app on your iOS or Android device is both free and easy to do. You can use this link to download the app, and then click “install” and “get started.”

    2. Create your investor profile

    Once you’re past the initial steps, you’ll be prompted to create your investor profile. To do this, you simply enter your phone number to be sent an authentication code, which you will enter in the app.

    From there, you will input some basic information, including your name and a username, your email address, a password, and choose a profile photo.

    3. Set up your brokerage account

    Setting up your brokerage account requires inputting more information, including your birthdate, citizenship status, marital status, number of dependents, employment status, address, full name, and social security number.

    You also have to agree to the terms and conditions of the platform. Having to input this information is typical — this information is required to set up any brokerage account in the United States.

    4. Make your first deposit

    Public.com then asks you a few more questions about your investing goals and experience, your annual income, and your net worth. Once you’ve answered those questions, you can make your first deposit.

    While Public.com uses Plaid to connect your bank information to the app, you can also easily link your own bank without using the Plaid feature. I linked my Chase account within minutes and then made my initial deposit of $100, which I was able to use right away — even though it didn’t transfer immediately.

    While the share price of an Amazon stock is about $3000 right now, I was able to invest my $100 in Amazon stock because of Public.com’s “slices.”

    I do want to note that was not given the option to place a limit on my stock purchase because I was investing in fractional shares. If I’d had enough money in my account to buy a whole Amazon share, Public.com would have given me the option to set a limit price — which is the maximum price I would be willing to pay.

    When ordering a fractional share, though, Public.com app users don’t have that option. That said, this type of limitation is true for the entire stock market, not just the Public.com app.

    5. Choose your free stock

    Unlike other investing apps, such as Webull, Robinhood, Firstrade, and Dough, which give you a specific share of stock, Public.com gives you a fractional share of up to $5 worth of a particular stock. It calls these fractional shares a “slice.”

    Pro Tip:

    Public.com gives you a free $5 credit for a stock slice when you sign up to use the app, and it lets you pick what you want to invest, so make sure to use it wisely. I picked Tesla.

    6. Pick your interests

    Public.com will also ask you to pick your interests. This information determines what you see on your home feed in the Public.com investing app.

    If you’d like to see a comprehensive step-by-step walkthrough of how to use the Public.com investing app, check out my YouTube video below!

    An Inside Look at Public.com

    Curious about what the platform looks like? This is what the Public.com app looks like after you’ve finished setting it up:

    Company suggestions

    You’ll find ticker symbols on the middle of the app home screen. These ticker symbols offer information for the companies that Public.com thinks you might be interested in based on your interests.

    Posts from others

    Right under the ticker symbols are the social posts from other users in the Public.com community. The information on the social feeds can vary, but in general, people post to share their thoughts about investing.

    View other user profiles

    The Public.com app also allows you to click on people’s names to see their profile and portfolio. This allows you to see the user’s old and new posts, look over the general categories that they’re interested in, find out what stocks they’re keeping an eye on, and see the stocks they’ve invested in through Public.com.

    Public.com app profile

    Follow other investors

    If you click the magnifying glass at the bottom of the Public.com app’s home screen, you can search through options for people to follow, including many of the aforementioned celebrities.

    A few caveats, though. Just because people are celebrities doesn’t mean their stock picks are good. It’s also important to note that you can’t see another person’s full portfolio; you can only see the stocks they own using the Public.com app.

    Public.com app investors

    Invite others to the Public.com app

    By clicking the present icon next to the magnifying glass on the app’s home screen, you get a link to an invite that you can send to other would-be Public.com users. If they sign up, you’re both rewarded with a free “slice” of stock.

    Message others through the app

    Right next to the invite icon is a messaging box, which is one of the social features noted above. You can use this icon to directly message other investors in the Public.com app.

    View your profile or access account settings

    By clicking on the profile icon at the bottom right hand side of the screen, you can view your profile and access your account details and information.public app settings

    If you click the gear icon at the top right of your profile page, you can access your account settings. This allows you to download your statements and tax documents, manage transfers, update your account, and access other account features.

    Public.com app features

    You can also access a feature called “dividend reinvestment” within the account settings. By clicking on this feature, you’re able to dictate what Public.com should do with the dividends earned in your Public.com account. The Public.com app default option is to simply deposit the dividends into your account, but I chose to auto-reinvest my dividends.

    How to Buy Stock on Public.com

    Buying stock in Public.com is surprisingly simple.

    1. Select the name of the stock or stocks you want to invest in

    You simply select the magnifying glass icon, type the company name into the search bar and then select the company name.

    2. Research to make sure it’s the right stock for your portfolio

    Do your research. Public.com builds educational features into the app, so you can learn about the options as you go. You can get explanations for why a stock is moving or look up other helpful information.

    3. Decide on a stock to buy

    Once you’ve narrowed down the options, you’ll want to click on the company name. Click “Trade” in the bottom right, and then click on “Buy.”

    4. Specify the amount of your investment

    Public.com will allow you to specify the amount of stock you want to buy. You can either choose one of the round dollar numbers they suggest, or you can customize the amount of your investment by selecting the option for a different amount.

    5. Complete the trade

    Once you’ve chosen the amount to invest, you’ll complete the trade. After your investment is complete, it will appear in your Public.com portfolio.

    Pros and Cons of Public.com

    Public.com Pros

    • It’s free: Public.com is completely free to download and use. There is no monthly subscription fee, no commissions on your stock purchases, and no other fees to contend with.
    • The sign-up bonus: Public.com also gives a sign-up bonus to new users. If you use this link to sign up, you will get a free slice of stock from Public.com.
    • No minimum investment requirements: As I noted above, there are no minimum investment requirements with Public.com, which makes investing in the stock market possible for anyone, regardless of how much money they have to invest.
    • Fractional shares are available: Again, even if you only deposit a dollar into Public.com, you can buy fractional shares for different companies, including big companies like Amazon, Apple, Tesla, and others.
    • The social features: The social features available on the Public.com app are completely unique. By opening the app home screen, you can see other investors’ thoughts on the stock market and on various stocks. No other investment app does this — not as well as Public.com, anyway.Why are the social features good? If, like me, you’re addicted to social media, you can get your social media fix by joining the stock and investing conversation on Public.com rather than scrolling through Instagram to look at pictures of the lizard of the person you said hi to a few times in high school recently posted.

    Public.com Cons

    • The social aspect: The social aspect can be useful, but it can also be a big con. I know I just said these features were a good thing, but they can also be a not-so-good thing. Constantly fiddling with your portfolio can be bad for several reasons. On the other hand, you have higher long-term returns by setting and forgetting — and your time could be more productively used on things other than tracking your stocks. You can also be tempted to invest in a stock just because X or Y celebrity invested in something. However, most celebrities aren’t investing experts and have the same likelihood of choosing good stocks as the normal person does. In other words, while the social aspect of Public.com can be a good thing, it’s important to take it with a grain of salt.
    • No desktop site: All trading must be done on the Public.com app. There is no desktop option. This isn’t a big deal for some people, but others like to invest while using a computer, and you can’t do that with Public.com.
    • No IRA or other account options: Right now, the Public.com app only offers individual taxable brokerage accounts, so you can’t open up an IRA or any other type of account on the app.
    • No margin trading: Public.com doesn’t offer margin trading, which is a risky strategy that involves borrowing against your portfolio in order to invest even more money in the stock market.
    • No auto-invest features: There is no real auto-invest feature built into the Public.com app. You have to manually deposit money into your Public.com account and then make your trade. This can be time-intensive and is not conducive to building a long-term investment strategy and portfolio.

    Public.com FAQs

    • Is my money safe in the Public.com app?

      It is. Public.com is SIPC-insured, which keeps your securities investments safe up to $500,000. Your cash is safe in the app, too. Cash amounts of up to $250,000 are also covered. Plus, the app is protected with 128-bit encryption, and there are data security measures in place as well.

    • How long will it take for Public.com to approve my account?

      Public.com puts each account through an individual review, so account approval and set-up times will vary. In general, though, it takes between one and 10 business days to have your Public.com account approved.

    • Can I day trade on the Public.com app?

      No, you can’t. Public.com doesn’t allow day trading of stocks, and it will limit the accounts that attempt to engage in day trading or the same day purchases and sales of securities.

    Public.com Alternatives

     Public.comAcornsStashBetterment
     
    Minimum investment
    • $0 (no minimum investment)
    • $0
    • $5
    • $0
    Commissions
    • None
    • None
    • None
    • None
    Fees
    • $0
    • $1 to $5 per month
    • $1 to $9 per month
    • 0.25% to 0.40% management fee
    Investment options
    • 5,000 stocks available on the platform

      Allows users to buy fractional shares, or slices
    • ETFs
    • Stocks
    • ETFs
    • ETFs
    Sign-up bonus
    • $5
    • $10
    • $20
    • Varies
    Funding options
    • Bank account
    • One-time deposits
    • Bank account
    • Auto deposit
    • One-time deposits
    • Round-ups
    • Bank account
    • One-time deposits
    • Auto deposit
    • Bank account
    • Wire Transfer
    • Auto-deposit
     

    There are plenty of other no-commission investment app options available if you want to look outside of Public.com. Here are a few alternatives that might work if…

    You want to automate your investments and savings

    Public.com doesn’t have an auto-investment feature yet, nor does it offer auto deposits for ongoing investing. If you want to set up an automatic deposit and investment schedule, you’re better off with an app like Stash, which allows you to set up weekly, bi-weekly, or other auto deposits to be invested through your account. The downside to using Stash is that you will have to pay monthly fees — and there are minimum investment requirements to meet.

    You want a well-diversified portfolio

    If you want a well-diversified portfolio, you can look into options like Betterment, which offers investors a core portfolio of ETFs from 13 asset classes. Betterment also offers a wide range of account types — unlike Public.com — including individual and joint non retirement accounts, Roth, traditional, rollover, and SEP IRAs, trusts, and other tools to help you diversify your investments.

    You want to make use of your spare change

    There aren’t many apps that allow you to invest with the spare change in your wallet, but Acorns does. This app allows you to round up on your purchases and invest the “spare change” into the stock market — something that Public.com doesn’t offer. You will have to pay a monthly maintenance fee to use this feature (or any), but it can be worth it for investors who want to make use of their money in every way possible.

    Final Thoughts on Public.com

    Would I recommend the Public.com investing app? If you’re attracted to the community aspect of the app and can see yourself using it responsibly without getting addicted, I think Public.com is a fun way to get started investing.

    That being said, I wouldn’t make Public.com my main investing app. It doesn’t have many of the features that platforms like Fidelity offer, which is where I keep the majority of my stock portfolio — and it lets me set up any type of account.

    It also does not have the research features and tools offered by Fidelity, or the investing automation features of a platform like M1 Finance, my favorite investment app and brokerage. You can check out my M1 Finance review here.

    As such, I would likely use Public.com as a fun investing app to build out a small percentage of my portfolio — and then take a few more risks with it.

    Logan Allec, CPA

    Logan is a practicing CPA, Certified Student Loan Professional, and founder of Money Done Right, which he launched in 2017. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.

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