Public.com Review: A New Investing Experience

Investing
Updated: 1st Jan 2021
Written by Ryan Barnes
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Investing
December 12, 2020
Written by Ryan Barnes

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Public.com calls itself the Investing Social Network, and that’s exactly what it is first and foremost – a social network for investors.

With an interface like Twitter, the app-only trading platform invites users to follow their friends on Public or anybody they want.

From there you can see what others are trading, discuss investment strategies with others, and follow big secular themes to find out what stocks are leading the charge toward in new fields like biotechnology, alternative energy, and cutting-edge software technology.

Keep reading our Public.com review to see if this revolutionary broker can help you start investing serve your investing needs.

Public.com Overview

Features: Details
Account Minimum: $0 minimum balance to open an account.
Commissions:$0 (Can only trade common stocks and ETFs)
Management Fee(s):No management fee(s)
Account TypesStandard and Joint Taxable Accounts
Automatic Rebalancing:Not Available
Expense Ratios:Public.com has no in-house asset management, no funds of their own to sell. Users can trade ETFs on the platform and will only pay the underlying ETFs operating expense ratio, ranging from 0.05% to 1.5% per year.
Customer Support:In-App Chat & Email
Human Advisor(s):Not Offered
Mobile App:Yes
Tax Strategy:Not Offered
Tradeable Securities:Stocks & ETFs
SIPC InsuredYes

The Public.com investing app is an online stock broker designed for those brand new to the investing scene. Formerly called Matador, Public is run entirely on a mobile app, including all trading, money transfers, and interactions with other users of the platform.

All the financial content and stock trading information is woven into the functionality of the core social network. The ease of use to navigate, explore, and find other investors who think similarly to you is the main selling point here.

Public.com Investing App Review. A new social media investment platform.

By making the experience of buying your first stocks less intimidating and making a commitment to fractional investing – you can buy any dollar amount of any stock at any time – Public.com aims to guide newcomers to the world of stock investing by demystifying it and removing all possible barriers to entry.

Follow your friends on Public as they trade, and make new friends on the platform, while you all grow and learn together.

Public.com Investing App Details

Account Minimum Balance:

$0 minimum balance to open an account.

Commissions:

$0 commissions on all trades (only common stocks and ETFs can be traded on Public)

Management Fee(s):

There are no management fees as Public has no asset management or robo-advisor services

Account Types:

Individual and Joint taxable accounts and savings cash accounts only. No retirement accounts can be opened currently.

Automatic Rebalancing:

Not available

Expense Ratios:

Public.com has no in-house asset management, no funds of their own to sell. Users can trade exchange-traded funds on the platform and will only pay the underlying ETFs operating expense ratio, ranging from 0.05% to 1.5% per year.

Customer Support:

In-app chat is the main support mechanism. Email support is also available.

Human Advisor(s):

There are no human financial advisors that Public users have access to.

Mobile App:

The app is the trading platform at Public. The Public app (free to download) has a 4.7-star review on the Apple Store and a 4.5-star collective review at Google Play.

Users commend the company for creating an intuitive, free-flowing experience in learning about new companies and chatting with other users.

Tax Strategy:

There are no tax strategies offered by Public, no rebalancing or harvesting automation.

Tradeable Securities:

Only stocks listed on U.S. exchanges and a collection can be traded on the Public app

Socially Responsible Investing:

Public has thematic investing channels available for viewing and researching, and SRI is one of the most popular themes there. Learn about the hundreds of stocks that have high SRI ratings from others who have their money parked in the stock.

SIPC Insured:

All assets (securities + cash) held at T3 Securities (the FINRA-regulated brokerage arm of Public.com) are SIPC insures for up to $500,000 in invested securities and up to $250,000 cash.

Current Promotions:

Users can earn free “slices” of stock via referrals. Public will be distributing a free stock worth up to $15 to qualified customers who either are the “Referrer” or “Referee” for a “Qualified Account”, up to a total of $500.

Users can select from 1 of 9 stock slices that will become part of their holdings. However, these slices cannot be sold for the first 90 days after they are received.

Margin Trading:

Trading on margin is not available.

Asset Management:

No asset management services on Public.com – it is a fully DIY platform.

Pros:

  • Designed to help erode any budgetary impediments or general hesitation that new investors may have before putting their money to work in the stock market.
  • It offers deep social interaction: Users can watch what others buy, “follow” others, and communicate with other investors in chat rooms or directly via D.M.
  • Public also allows users to research stocks by theme – such as “Future Education, Meatless Revolution, or Stay-at-Home trends)) rather than by financial metrics that new investors don’t know and may be intimidated by.
  • Users get a free $5 stock “slice” (fractional share) when opening an account, so you can get your feet wet right away.

Cons:

  • Limited runtime as a company (Public has only been operational since 2019).
  • Scant research tools outside of the thematic organization of companies.
  • Limited selection of securities available – not much outside of common stocks and ETFs are available.
  • No bonds, mutual funds, options, futures, or other securities can be traded. No retirement accounts can be opened, so it’s not the place to get started with an IRA.

Public.com Review

Public, formerly known as Matador, is a new entrant to the field of commission-free, fractional share (invest as little as you want at a time) stock trading. The core aspect of the platform is the social network, where you can follow friends, celebrities, and anyone you want.

Each user has their current stock holdings viewable on their profile page (the actual dollar values owned/number of shares held is private, just the percentage levels and the companies themselves are shown on the default setting).

In terms of features, accounts types that can be opened, and overall breadth of service, Public.com is a bare-bones brokerage.

This doesn’t mean it’s not safe – it has the same level of financial protection available at larger brokerages and secure-layer 128-bit encryption and TLS 1.2 for data integrity.

But you can’t trade anything outside of common stocks and ETFs, and you can’t day trade here (seriously, they may block your account for overactive trading).

The limitations of Public are either attractive to you, or they aren’t – Public.com wants to make it easy to get started in investing but isn’t designed to be everything your financial future needs.

While we think most people, who trade on Public.com will one day seek out another financial institution to open a retirement account or to do estate & tax planning, it cannot be overstated how important it is for everyone out there to actually get started – someway, somehow.

So, if Public’s unique social media overlays help new investors get into the fray, that is an achievement and worthy of praise.

Related: Best Investing Apps for Beginners

Who is Public Best For:

  • New Investors
  • Young Adults
  • College Students
  • High Schoolers

Everything at Public.com is designed to empower a first-time investor to buy their first shares, start their first portfolio, and start learning about companies for the first time.

It’s a great tool for beginners, though most will find that as they learn and grow, they’ll need a wider array of offerings (like opening an IRA account) than Public.com currently offers.

Learn: How to Invest $1,000

What is Public.com?

The full name of the brokerage is Open to the Public Investing, Inc., and they are based out of New York City.

The brokerage arm of Public.com is T3 securities, a FINRA and SIPC-regulated brokerage that is licensed to operate in all U.S. states.

Public.com is an app-only, fully mobile trading platform. All trades are commission-free, and fractional shares can be purchased in thousands of individual stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

How Does Public.com Work?

Users can open an account by just downloading the app, then answering 9 simple questions. New users can skip entering in any sensitive information (like your SSN) at the starting point, so you can navigate the platform and see if it is to your liking before turning over financial details.

Once on the platform, you can follow other users to see what companies they own and their recent trading activity.

You can jump into current discussions about companies you are interested in. If you follow somebody and they follow you back, you can create direct messages or group chats with them and other users. Within the chat, you can include charts and graphs on stocks being discussed.

Because there are no management fees and commission fees earned by Public.com, they do charge a few miscellaneous fees (such as ACAT transfers out, wire transfers, paper statement deliveries), and interest earned on un-invested cash to make their money.

Standout Features:

The social media platform is the cornerstone feature here. So, if you like interacting with others, Public.com could be an ideal place to start your investing journey.

Public.com also puts safety labels on specific stocks or funds that are deemed riskier than the average investment to help protect and forewarn new investors about the heightened risk of some stocks vs others.

This is a unique feature that is not found in most brokerages.

Does Public.com Invest Your Money?

Public.com is a self-directed investment platform where users make all the decisions. This broker uses Plaid to link your external bank account(s) for transfers in and out of Public.com, which are done via ACH transfer.

Plaid is a FinTech company that is commonly used to facilitate transfers for most major brokerages.

The default setting is for users to get free online trade confirmations and statements. Users can also select to have physical trade confirmations at $2/confirm and physical paper statements at $5/statement.

Does Public.com Offer Wealth Management?

No, Public.com does not offer any wealth management or financial planning services. ☹

Public.com Fees and Pricing

Zero commissions on all trades. No cost to do ACH transfers in or out. ACAT transfers out for closing an account come with a $75 fee. Domestic wire transfers cost $25. And a broker-assisted trade has a $25 service fee.

Is Public.com SIPC Insured?

Yes, invested securities and cash held at T3 Securities (the FINRA-regulated brokerage arm of Public.com) are SIPC insured for up to $500,000 of invested securities and up to $250,000 cash

Research and Tools

Public’s thematic organization of companies is the main research tool. Some examples of popular themes are “The Future is Female” (companies with female CEOs), “Clean and Green” (environmentally friendly), and “Tech Giants”.

Public also shows basic information about each stock, such as earnings data, trading volume, dividend yield, and market capitalization.

There is limited research available on Public.com outside of this, other than the value of the “hive mind” found in the group discussions and chats with other users.

Related: Stock Market Research Websites

Educational Resources

The main educational resource comes with an asterisk, as it is the value one gets from watching and discussing investing with other users.

Most investors on Public.com are newcomers, and this can be incredibly useful if everyone is on board with learning together, but remember, any ideas or information you read it is best to confirm before trading on that information.

Bottom Line: Public.com Review

Public.com is designed to break barriers. It is attractive to new investors who want to collaborate with others, share ideas, and get their feet wet in financial markets.

However, if you are looking for a more robust investing experience, then Public.com may not be the best choice, but it is certainly a great place to start your journey.

More Broker Reviews:

Ryan Barnes
Ryan Barnes
Ryan is a certified Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) with over 15 years of experience managing and steering hundreds of millions in client assets through complex and dynamic financial markets. Ryan’s work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Forbes, Nasdaq.com, Investopedia, and Bloomberg. Additionally, he has multiple citations in peer-reviewed papers for reporting done on the U.S. housing market preceding the Great Financial Crisis.