Public.com Review: Do Serious Traders Feel at Home?

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Risk Warning: Your Capital is at Risk.

Public is a US-only online brokerage that offers stocks, ETFs, and fractional shares for no fees and no commissions. The firm was co-founded in 2015 by actor Will Smith and others as an “investing social network.”

Available exclusively via a mobile app, Public’s mission is to make stock trading “inclusive, educational, and fun” for people from all income levels and backgrounds.

This review will explain how Public is different from other brokers, what products they offer, how to open an account, and how they make money despite being commission-free.

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Public Quick Summary

Here’s a snapshot of important facts about Public. More details and in-depth analysis are provided in the remainder of the review.

ProsCons
✅ No fees, commissions, or minimums. Tipping is optional.❌ A start-up company that may introduce fees at a later time.
✅ Offers shares, fractional shares, ETFs, and free stock shares.❌ Accounts can be funded via linked bank accounts only.
✅ Safety labels on risky companies and ETFs.❌ No advanced technical analysis, margin accounts, or day trading.
✅ Active member community.❌ Available only in the United States.

Public At a Glance

 public.com logo
ProductsStocks, fractional shares, ETFs, cryptocurrencies
RegulatorsRegulated by FINRA and has $500k SIPC coverage.
FeesNo fees, no commissions. Tipping is optional.
SpreadsNone
Mobile PlatformsiOS, Android
Other PlatformsNone: Available only via mobile app
Deposits & WithdrawalsNo minimums, no fees. Funding via linked US bank account only.
Max LeverageNot provided
Negative Balance Protection
Special Account Types
Social TradingCan follow other investors and participate in group chats.
Account SecurityBank-grade security with AES 128-bit encryption, TLS 1.2, ACAT for secure transfers. However, no multi-factor authentication.
Educational ResourcesCovers the basics and some current events.
Customer SupportLive chat, email, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. Languages: English.

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What’s Different About Public?

With Public, trading stock shares becomes primarily a social endeavor for traders at any level. Since there are no minimums, you can choose any amount of money to purchase stocks or “slices” (fractional shares) with no commissions.

Public places emphasis on a safe trading environment. To that end, day trading and margin accounts aren’t allowed. The broker applies a “Safety Label” for risky stocks and ETFs for transparency.

Video: Public brings the market to the people [2:03]

Celebrity Advisors

Public was founded in 2017 and launched its trading app in 2019. It has headquarters in New York, NY; Raleigh, NC; and Copenhagen.

Public is currently backed by venture capital. Some of the company’s venture capital investors and advisors include:

  • Will Smith – Actor
  • J.J. Watt – NFL star
  • Sophia Amoruso – Girlboss founder
  • Venmo’s original investor group
  • Tony Hawk – Skateboarder
  • Shari Redstone – Co-founder of Advancit Capital

Discover more unique features about Public.

Where Does Public Operate?

Public is currently available only to citizens of the United States, Puerto Rico, and US residents who hold visas or Green Cards. The company expects to include residents of other countries, but they haven’t set a timeline for expansion.

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What Are Public’s Trading Products?

Public allows customers to purchase shares, fractional shares, ETFs, and cryptocurrencies. However, cryptocurrencies are only available to Public.com members who enable crypto trading and are within legally authorized jurisdictions.

Please Note: Availability subject to regulations. Cryptocurrency CFDs are not available to UK retail traders.

Stock Shares

Public’s primary offering is stock trading which allows traders to become part-owners in publicly-traded companies.

The good news is that even if the shares you want to purchase seem expensive, Public allows you to buy fractional shares.

Public has thousands of stocks available for purchase. Here are some of the most popular companies available:

Symbol Name Last Price Change % Change

This screenshot is only an illustration. Current market prices can be found on the broker website. Please note, this is an example trade – not a recommendation.

Stock Slices

“Slices” is the name Public uses for fractional shares, which are less than one full share of stock. That means no matter the share price, you can own a slice of stock for as little as $5.

Understanding Slices:
Let’s say one share of Amazon stock is selling for $3,000, but you only have $10 to trade with. Even though you can’t afford an entire share of Amazon stock, with your $10 you can still own 1/300 of a share (0.0033) as a Slice.

Public has 1,000+ sliced stocks and ETFs you can purchase. They add new sliced stocks weekly.

How Are Slices Different From Full Shares?

If you own a stock Slice, you will still get quarterly dividend payouts, just in proportion to the amount of a share you’ve purchased — eg, half-shares get half of the dividends.

You can also set up your Public account to automatically reinvest any dividends you may receive.

Video: How Public’s Stock Slices work. [:30]

Stock ETFs

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are financial instruments that trade as shares on exchanges in the same way that stocks do, but include multiple underlying assets instead of just shares of one company.

Public offers hundreds of popular ETFs from Vanguard, BlackRock, and many others. Here are some of the most popular ETFs from Public:

Symbol Name Last Price Change % Change

This screenshot is only an illustration. Current market prices can be found on the broker website. Please note, this is an example trade – not a recommendation.

Cryptocurrencies

If you have enabled cryptocurrency trading in your account and you’re located in a country or region where you’re legally allowed to trade cryptocurrencies, Public.com offers a selection of 11 crypto coins. These are:

  • Bitcoin (BTC)
  • Ether (ETH)
  • Cardano (ADA)
  • Dogecoin (DOGE)
  • Litecoin (LTC)
  • Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
  • Shiba Inu ($SHIB)
  • Stellar (XLM)
  • Ethereum Classic (ETC)
  • Dash (DASH)
  • Zcash (ZEC)

Please Note: Availability subject to regulations. Cryptocurrency CFDs are not available to UK retail traders.

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Opening a Public Account

Public only has one account type. Although it doesn’t offer a demo account, the app is free to download via Google Play or the Apple App Store.

How To Sign Up: Step-by-Step

  1. You must be 18 or older to sign up for Public.
  2. Download the Public app for Android or iOS.
  3. Choose a free stock slice from nine popular choices: Tesla, Amazon, Zoom, Disney, BeyondMeat, Peloton, Apple, SPDR, or Shopify.
  4. Provide your phone number and then enter the verification code that’s texted to you.
  5. Add your personal information.
  6. Accept Public’s Terms and Conditions.
Public app's home page
The Public app’s home page.
This screenshot is only an illustration. Current market prices can be found on the broker website. Please note, this is an example trade – not a recommendation.

After signing up, your account must be verified, which can take up to 10 business days. It’s possible you may be asked for additional information, such as a photo of your Social Security card or a bank statement.

Verifying Your Public Account

When you sign up, you’ll need to provide the following information:

  • Your full legal name, birthday, and US citizenship status
  • Email address, US phone number, and permanent address
  • Birthday
  • Marital and employment status
  • Employer and job title
  • Social Security Number (which may require a photo of your SSN card)
  • Bank statement (in some cases)

Your information will be verified by Public for compliance with regulators and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regulations.

It can take up to 10 business days for your Public account to be approved.

How To Buy A Stock: Step-By-Step

After your Public account has been approved and you’ve funded it, you can start purchasing stocks, ETFs, and slices.

  1. Choose a stock from a company you want to speculate on.
  2. Tap the “Invest” button.
  3. Choose an amount you can afford.
  4. Click Continue to verify the purchase.
  5. After your transaction is complete you’ll be asked if you want to leave a tip. (See more about optional tipping.)
Public's trading ticket
Public’s trading ticket.
This screenshot is only an illustration. Current market prices can be found on the broker website. Please note, this is an example trade – not a recommendation.

Deposits and Withdrawals

Deposits and withdrawals with Public are much simpler than with other online brokerages.

Public doesn’t charge fees for deposits or withdrawals.

Funding Your Account

There’s no minimum deposit required, but Public recommends starting with $100.

You can only fund your Public account with a linked personal (non-business) account at a traditional bank.

Your bank account will be linked via Plaid, a financial services company.

Linking your bank account to Public
You must fund your Public account via a linked personal account with a US bank.

At present, you can’t fund your Public.om account with a credit card, Paypal, or other financial service.

Transferring From Another Broker

You can transfer your existing portfolio to Public via their 1-minute Transfer Wizard, as long as it’s not a retirement account or a 401(k).

Some of the brokers Public supports transfers from include:

There’s no fee for incoming stock transfers. If your current broker charges you a fee, Public will cover it.

Withdrawing Money

Settled funds can be withdrawn from Public to your linked bank account at any time, for no charge. Note, however, that free stock slices are held for 90 days before being settled.

There are no fees for withdrawals.

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Fees and Commissions

Public doesn’t charge commissions or spreads to generate revenue. Neither does it charge a monthly fee to use your account.

However, you may incur exchange fees from certain types of trades or transactions, like:

TransactionFee
Broker-assisted phone trades$30
Domestic wire transfer$30
Domestic overnight check$35
Returned check, ACH, wire and recall/stop payments$30
Automated Customer Account Transfer Service (ACAT) outgoing$75
Paper statements$35

How Does Public Make Money?

As of February 2021, Public discontinued using Payment for Order Flow (PFOF) rebates as a revenue-generator, as many other brokers do, to remove a potential conflict of interest and better align with its members’ financial interests.

Instead, Public routes trades directly to exchanges like the NASDAQ and NYSE.

So, how does Public make money?

  • Interest on cash balances – They earn interest on your uninvested cash balances, paid at the current Federal Reserve rate.
  • Securities lending – Public receives rebates from interest accrued by loaning shares to other parties.
  • Optional tipping – Clients can add a tip to their trade to compensate for Public’s loss of revenue from PFOF.

In the future, Public may charge subscription fees for premium features.

How Does Tipping Work?

After you submit a trade order, you’ll be given the option to leave a tip.

  1. If you want to tip, tap the “+” sign until you reach the tip amount you want. Increments for tipping are pre-set by the app, up to a maximum of 5% of your order.
  2. Tap to submit your tip.
  3. The tip amount will be deducted against your buying power until and if the order is executed and will be returned to buying power if the order is canceled or rejected.

You can skip the tipping page if you want.

Why Did Public Launch Tipping?

Public stopped using the typical transaction system, Payment for Order Flow (PFOF), which provides rebates to brokerages as a revenue-generator, because the broker felt these rebates presented a conflict between itself and its clients’ goals.

To make up for the lost rebate revenue, the broker launched tipping as an optional way for clients to help with costs.

Do I Have to Tip?

No. Tipping is optional and you can still trade with no commissions or fees. Tipping is separate from your trade order, so it won’t change how your quickly order is executed.

How Much Should I Tip?

Tipping is completely optional and the amount is left to the client’s discretion. Minimum tips depend on the dollar value of your order and the maximum tip is 5% of your order amount. Tipping increments are set by the app.

Where Do My Tips Go?

The tips are paid to Public and are part of its revenue stream which helps offset the costs of executing orders at exchanges. The addition of a tip and the value of the tip has no bearing on how trades are executed.

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Public Mobile Platform Review

Public’s trading app is only available on mobile; there’s no browser or desktop app. It’s available for Android devices on the Google Play store and iPad and iPhone on the App store. The apps are free to download.

Like many brokers, Public’s app has the following features:

  • Top stock movers – A live list of stocks whose prices have changed the most (up or down) throughout the day.
  • Trends – A live list of the most and least popular stocks overall by volume of activity.
  • Watchlist and news alerts – Pin your favorite companies to your dashboard and receive phone notifications when there’s news about them.
  • Social – You can follow other traders and see how their portfolios are doing.
Public's top movers chart
Public’s Top Movers chart is updated throughout the trading day.

Public’s Community

Public’s friendly trading community is one of its strengths. As with other brokers, you can follow other traders, interact with them, and get insights from people with different backgrounds.

You can also:

  • ✅ Send direct messages (DMs)
  • ✅ Embed a live, updated stock chart into your messages
  • ✅ Start a chat group within the app to chat with other Public members or invite those who don’t yet belong to participate
  • ✅ Join existing chat groups like those dedicated to following specific stocks, locations, investment and trading strategies, or other interests.
  • ✅ Leave a group at any time or block another member.

However, unlike with other brokers (eToro, for example), you cannot copy the trades of a Public community member automatically.

Unique Features of Public

Public offers some features that are rare at other brokers and integrates social sharing features across the platform.

Ticker Time Machine

Check the price of any stock at any point in time in the past with the Ticker Time Machine to see what it might be worth today if you had purchased it then.

For example: If you bought $1,000 of stock in Google in 2005, it would be worth almost $22,000 today.

Ticker time machine results in a prediction of a $20k return on a $1k GOOG investment in 2005.
Ticker Time Machine predicts that a $1,000 Google stock purchase in 2005 would net you a $20k profit today.

Themes

Public’s Themes allow you to subscribe to curated information about companies and ETFs that fit your interests or values. For example, you can follow themes like “Gaming and eSports” or “Female-Led Companies in the S&P 500.”

Themes can help you find new companies to speculate on for topic categories that matter to you.

Examples of Public's themes to follow.
Some of Public’s themes.

Free Stocks

For a limited time, Public gives clients plenty of opportunities to earn free stock Slices (fractional shares).

  1. Signup – When you sign up with the broker, you can pick from a list of free stock Slices worth up to $5. Your free stock is yours to keep after 90 days once your account is verified.
  2. Referrals – Earn a free stock Slice worth up to $50 when you refer your friends to Public.

Although you can’t withdraw your free stocks immediately, any proceeds you get can be reinvested for additional stock purchases in the meantime.

Free stock Slices can’t be withdrawn for 90 days.

9 companies that Public offers free signup stocks for.
Choose from any of these popular companies to get a free stock when you sign up for Public.

Stock Gifts

As a separate promotion, not contingent on referrals, Public lets you give free stock Slices worth up to $50 to your friends. You can even send them a note along with your gift.

You don’t need to be a Public client to send a stock gift. However, the recipient must download the broker’s app and create an account to redeem your gift.

Stock gifts can only be redeemed by US citizens and legal residents.

Public lets you give free stock Slices to your friends for free.
Gift stocks are subject to a 90-day waiting period before they’re settled and can be withdrawn.

Merchandise

Public lets you create and order a t-shirt composed of stocks you pick. They also give away free hats to those who participate and provide help to others within the Public community.

Public.com's stock symbol t-shirt

Long-Term Portfolio

Traders can divide their Public portfolio into two lists to facilitate long-term investing.

If you drag a set of shares you own to the Long-Term portfolio list, you’ll be reminded if you try to sell those stocks that you wanted to keep them as long-term investments rather than short-term trades.

Public's long-term portfolio section
Public’s long-term portfolio section.

Capital Gains Tax Calculator

Traders who are concerned about taxes can try out Public’s Capital Gains Tax Calculator to estimate what they may owe.

Public's capital gains tax calculator tool
Tesla stock chart from Public
Example of a Public stock chart.
This screenshot is only an illustration. Current market prices can be found on the broker website. Please note, this is an example trade – not a recommendation.

What Public Doesn’t Provide

Due to its emphasis on simplicity and dedication to making stock trading accessible to people of all types, Public’s trading platform is missing some tools that other brokers typically provide.

For example, Public has:

  • ❌ No advanced technical analysis tools.
  • ❌ No copytrading.
  • ❌ No desktop platform.
  • ❌ No day trading or professional trading.
  • ❌ No 2-factor authentication (2FA) for logging into your account.

Need one of these features? Check out our other stock brokerage reviews.

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Public Customer Support

Public is located in New York, NY. Members can contact the broker’s customer support team in a variety of ways:

  • In-app chat
  • Email
  • Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook

Support is available in English only.

Educational Resources

Public’s educational resources are tailored to people want to understand the basics of trading, with generalized topics like:

  • Retirement planning
  • How the stock market works
  • Trading and investing glossary

They also offer information related to current events like:

  • Coinbase’s 2021 IPO
  • Paying taxes on 2021 stock market gains

Is Public a Legit Brokerage?

Public is a licensed online broker regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) which falls under the auspices of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

As a member of FINRA, securities in Public member accounts are protected up to $500,000 by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SPIC). Cash held in accounts is protected up to $250,000.

Is Public a Safe App?

To protect its trading app, Public features bank-grade security with AES 128-bit encryption and TLS 1.2 to secure data in transit.

If you wish to transfer your portfolio from another broker, Public uses Automated Customer Account Transfer Service (ACAT) for secure transfers, the industry standard for transferring stocks.

However, Public doesn’t secure your account password with multi-factor authentication.

Limited Financial Instruments

Public designed its platform to help people from all backgrounds to speculate on shares of companies they believe in. To protect their clients, Public has a simple product offering that doesn’t include complex derivatives like CFDs, options, or futures.

Safety Labels

Some riskier stocks and ETFs on Public come with safety labels that require an extra approval step before purchasing. Some factors that may get a stock or ETF labeled include:

  • Companies that filed for bankruptcy
  • Companies with “micro-caps” (less than $300 million in market cap) and “nano-caps” (less than $50 million in market cap)
  • Leveraged ETFs
  • Inverse ETFs (also called “short ETFs”)
  • Stocks that have experienced elevated volatility recently.

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FAQs

Here are some answers to common questions about Public.

Does Public have a desktop app?

No. Public is only available via iOS or Android apps. The apps are free to download and you can get them from the Apple App store or the Google Play store. To learn more about Public’s online brokerage, see our trading platform review.

Is buying stock slices worth it?

Stock slices (fractional shares) can help traders become part-owners of almost any company they choose, regardless of the full share’s price. Slices come with all the same benefits and risks as owning full shares. For example, stocks with dividends still pay out to slice owners, just at a lower percentage.

What is the best online broker in Philippines?

Although there is no one best broker for everyone, regardless of country, we feature in-depth reviews on brokers that are available in the Philippines. For example, Forex.com, Pepperstone, Fortrade, eToro, easyMarkets, XM, and HYCM are all reputable brokers that operate in the Philippines.

Can you day trade on Public?

No, day trading isn’t currently allowed on Public. The online broker markets itself as being focused on safe trading and considers the risks of high-volume, leveraged trading too great for its target audience.

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