Public App Review 2024: Great for Exploring, Not Core Investing

Public Investing Tony Hawk
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The Public investing app simplifies trading stocks, ETFs, and popular investments such as corporate bonds, municipal bonds and U.S. Treasury securities. Additionally, Public offers unique alternative investments, including music royalties, fine art and cryptocurrencies, setting it apart from traditional investing platforms.

This Public review will cover key details about how the platform works, including:

  • The most important pros and cons to think about before signing up.
  • Whether the optional Public Premium subscription is worth the fee.
  • How Public compares to other investing apps, like Robinhood, Webull and M1.
  • Who Public is best suited for, and who might want to look elsewhere.

Quick Take: Public offers a user-friendly platform that's particularly appealing for those interested in diversifying into individual stocks and alternative assets. However, the lack of IRA options limits its usefulness in comprehensive long-term financial planning.

Essentially, Public works best as an additional investment channel for those looking to venture outside their core financial plan. While the platform may spark your interest in various asset types, it shouldn't be the cornerstone of a well-rounded financial strategy.

  • Free trades on stocks and ETFs.
  • Offers investment plans for broad diversification.
  • Can invest in fractional shares.
  • No minimum investment.
  • Promotional bonus of up to $300 in free stock.
  • Limited account types, including no IRAs.
  • No access to mutual funds.
  • Crypto is held by a third party and can’t be transferred to a private wallet.

Public Investing App at a Glance

Public offers free trading of most U.S. listed stocks and ETFs, and allows you to buy and sell fractional shares (with a $1 minimum investment). It also offers access to options trading, cryptocurrencies, and a selection of alternative assets including treasuries, corporate bonds and municipal bonds.

All of your assets are combined into a single portfolio, making it easy to track your total gains and losses. 

While many no-commission trading platforms focus on professional traders and offer features like options access and leverage trading (margin), Public is designed with the beginning investor in mind. The interface is built around simplicity, making it easy to find and trade assets without having to sift through the mountain of settings, charts and data that many new investors find intimidating and difficult to navigate.

While Public is not nearly the size of its most popular competitor Robinhood, it has built up a user base of millions of people across its web platform and mobile app, with positive ratings (4.2 on the Google Play Store and 4.7 on the iOS App Store). This is thanks in large part to its ease of use and social features.

Public Key Facts

Fees:No commissions on U.S. stock/ETF trades, except for extended hours trading, OTC securities, options, crypto, and some account services. Select fees are waived for Premium members.
Account minimum:$5 for stocks/ETFs. $100 for Treasuries.
Account types:Taxable accounts only.
Available assets:Stocks, exchange-traded funds, cryptocurrencies, high-yield treasuries, and “alts” like fine art and collectibles.
Financial advisor access:Not available.
Promotions:Transfers bonus of up to $10,000. See our Public bonus page for complete details.

Public Pros and Cons Explained

In the summary box above, we highlighted a few key benefits and downsides to using Public. Here’s a more in-depth look at the platform’s pros and cons.

Public Pros

  • Provides access to fractional shares. A major benefit for the beginner investor with limited funds, fractional share trading allows you to buy stocks based on dollar amounts. Instead of buying a whole share, you can invest any amount (with a $5 minimum) and get a slice of a share. This gives you access to companies that would otherwise be out of your reach, and allows you to better diversify a small portfolio. For example, you can invest $50 per week in many different companies, rather than being forced to save up and invest in a single share of one company.
  • Offers investment plans for broad diversification. In June 2023, Public introduced Core Investment Plans. Prior to this, they only offered baskets of theme-related stocks, such as companies that invest in specific sectors (e.g., artificial intelligence or cyber security). These Core Investment Plans are well-diversified and low-cost index-based portfolios that you could use for short, medium and long-term goals. Investment plan fees range from $0.49 to $1.99 based on the number of stocks and ETFs, but are waived for Premium members. Crypto transactions in plans incur a 1.25% fee regardless of the amount.
  • There’s no account minimum, minimum deposit, or minimum withdrawal. Start investing with any amount you’d like.
  • No accreditation status is required to invest in alts. You’re able to invest in assets like collectibles and art without having to meet the income and investing experience benchmarks often mandated by other platforms.

Public Cons

  • There are limited account types available. Public does not currently offer access to retirement accounts, such as a traditional or Roth IRA. That’s unfortunate because investing in one of these tax-advantaged accounts is one of the best long-term decisions a new investor can make.
  • No tax-loss harvesting. While Core Investment Plans are a great feature for the long-term index investor, Public doesn’t offer tax-loss harvesting on these accounts. Seeing that Public has no retirement options, these accounts are taxable and limit their usefulness in a well-constructed portfolio.
  • You can’t withdraw your crypto to a private wallet. You could therefore face tax implications for moving your crypto outside of Public, as you’d first have to sell to cash.
  • Alts on Public come with high risk. While a lot of alt platforms focus on asset-backed investments like real estate, the alternative investments available on Public are more culture-type investments, such as collectables and artwork. These are high-risk alternatives that, because of their risk level, don’t necessarily provide the portfolio diversification investors should look for when investing in alternatives.

Public Premium

Public Premium is an optional add-on service currently priced at $10 per month ($96 if paid annually). A Premium subscription is not required to use the app, but it may be beneficial to some users, including active traders and those with larger portfolios. 

Here’s what’s included with a Public Premium subscription: 

  • Unique performance indicators. These are business metrics specific to each company, such as subscriber growth and revenue segments broken down by product line. This data can help you keep track of a company’s performance and trends in order to make more informed investment decisions. 
  • Streamlined ETF insights. You’ll get quick in-app access to data related to the holdings of exchange-traded funds. While this information is available publicly elsewhere, being able to review it within the app is extremely convenient. 
  • Analyst ratings. Review the current state of a stock’s buy, hold and sell ratings and read reports from Morningstar (a leading investment research firm). 
  • VIP customer support. Public calls this “white-glove support,” though it’s not clear how it differs from the customer service offered to members without a Premium subscription.

For the sake of comparison, Robinhood’s premium subscription (called Robinhood Gold) costs $5 per month and includes access to analyst ratings and Morningstar investment research reports, as well as $2,000 in interest-free margin leverage (if your account qualifies for margin). 

Is Public Premium worth it?

The information included with a Premium subscription is valuable and it can help you make better investment decisions. At the same time, $10 per month is a relatively high price.

For example, let’s say you were to invest $83 per month in your Public account for a full year, resulting in a portfolio worth $1,000 (not accounting for any gains or losses). At that savings rate, A $10 per month subscription fee would cost you $120, or 1.2% of your investment. 

That’s significantly more than you would pay to invest in a professionally managed mutual fund. And it means that in order to justify the cost, you would need to have confidence that the data you’re unlocking will produce more than an additional 1.2% gain.

Therefore, we think Public Premium offers more value to those with larger portfolios, where the $10 monthly fee represents a lower cost on a percentage basis.

Investment Options

Public doesn’t have the largest number of investment options, and there’s no access to mutual funds. In contrast, full-service brokerages (like Vanguard) offer a wide assortment of low-cost mutual funds. This is something to consider, as most investors garner the best returns by utilizing a diversified, passive strategy (rather than by picking individual stocks).

Also, the lack of retirement accounts like an IRA is a significant downside as the app is aimed at beginner investors who should be taking advantage of such accounts before investing into a taxable account. 

Public provides access to seven blue chip cryptocurrencies, like BTC and ETH, which can offer exposure to these assets without the need to sign up for a dedicated crypto-trading app like Coinbase. This can simplify the process of buying and selling crypto while making it easy to track all of your investments from within a single dashboard. 

However, unlike Coinbase, Public doesn’t provide users with individual cryptocurrency wallets. As such, you can’t transfer cryptocurrency holdings in and out of Public without selling to cash first.

In 2022, Public acquired Otis, which allows investors to buy fractional shares of alternative assets like fine art and collectibles. The “Alts” section is now fully integrated into the Public platform. While this makes it easy to invest in things like Michael Jordan’s game-worn sneakers and first-edition Charizard cards, understand that the value of these types of assets is subject to market demand and may fluctuate wildly based on factors that are difficult to predict.

There’s also significant liquidity risk, as you must list the asset on Public’s site and then wait for it to sell.

As such, they should be viewed as especially risky when compared to more traditional investment options.

Customer Support

Public has both in-app chat and web chat support, as well as email agents. Unfortunately, no phone support is available.


There are no fees for trading stocks and no account fees. There are technically no fees for crypto purchases, but you will pay a markup (usually around 1-2%) on those transactions.

Before you make an investment, you can tip Public, but this is optional and not required. It’s also not the only way the company makes money, as they generate revenue from interest on cash balances, transaction fee rebates on crypto transactions, and alternative asset fees.

Public Premium is an optional subscription that provides access to market research data aimed at helping you become a better investor. Learn more about it in the Public Premium section above.


Both the web interface and the Public app are user-friendly and free of clutter, although the platform does display a significant amount of social media information, such as recent trades made by people in your network. While many users find this aspect of Public helpful, there’s no way to turn it off if you’d prefer a more streamlined and distraction-free experience.


Note: This data was last updated on March 13, 2024. We update the ratings and review counts below periodically throughout the year. 

On the iOS app store, the Public app has a 4.7/5 rating with ‎‎68,355 reviews. There has been no positive or negative change in the rating since our last update.

On the Google Play store, the Public app has a 4.2/5 rating with 46,996 reviews. There has been no positive or negative change in the rating since our last update. Alternatives

Public’s most prominent competitors are Robinhood, M1 Finance and Webull. Here’s a quick look at how Public stacks up against each.

Public vs. Robinhood

With over 20 million users, Robinhood is the most popular trading app for individual stock and ETF trades.

Public has done an excellent job of offering the same features as Robinhood. One significant difference, however, is that Robinhood allows you to invest in an IRA. Robinhood even offers a match for the money you contribute to an IRA.

Public vs. M1 Finance

M1 Finance is one of our favorite overall investment apps.

The platform is geared towards long-term investors looking for a more balanced set of investment options.

For example, M1 offers access to retirement accounts (i.e., traditional and Roth IRAs) and pre-constructed portfolios that resemble target-retirement funds (with no management fees).

M1 does have higher minimums (starting at $100) and lacks any social component.

Learn more in our M1 Finance review.

Public vs. Webull

Webull is similar to Robinhood in that it offers commission-free stock and ETF trades, along with many additional features like options and margin trading.

Similar to Robinhood, the advantage Webull has over Public is that it offers the ability to contribute to an IRA.

If you’re an intermediate to advanced investor who is looking for something above and beyond the simplicity of Public, Webull is a solid choice.

On the other hand, if you’re a beginner just looking to invest in a few stocks and participate in a community, Public would be our recommendation. Webull is specifically aimed at active traders and features a wealth of research and analytical tools that new investors may find overwhelming.

Learn more in our Webull review. Review FAQs

Is Public good for day trading?

Public was designed for beginner investors, and over 90% of its users are investing for the first time. As such, it lacks key features that are necessary for day trading, such as advanced charting, trend monitoring, and the ability to trade options. If you’re looking to get into day trading, see our TradeStation review and our Moomoo review, as these two stock trading platforms are more suitable for active investors.

Is identity verification required when signing up for Public?

All new Public users are subject to identity verification and are required to provide a government-issued ID, as well as other pertinent personal details that may be required to prove their identity. This is standard practice and similar to the process required by any other investment app or trading platform operating within the United States.

Is the Public app safe?

Public provides its users with up to $500,000 in SPIC Insurance. Any cash held in your brokerage account is insured for up to $250,000.

Public does not sell, rent or trade your personal information.

Financial account linking is through Plaid, which uses Advanced Encryption Standard (AES 256) and Transport Layer Security (TLS), which is considered best in class. Plaid is the best-known and most trusted account linking platform within the financial services industry, and we’re comfortable using it with our own accounts.

Is the Public app available worldwide?

No, the Public investment app is only available within the United States.

Can you fund your Public account with a credit card?

No. Public offers fee-free instant account funding via debit card, but you cannot fund your account via credit card. This is not a negative thing, however, because such transactions are usually billed as cash advances by your credit card issuer, and thus may have fees or higher interest rates.

Does Public have a recurring/automated deposit feature?

Yes, Public allows you to place recurring buy orders for both stock and crypto offerings. Review: How to Determine If This Social Investing Platform Is Right For You

If you’re a beginner investor looking to trade individual stocks and ETFs via a user-friendly app, Public is a solid choice.

Public’s simple user interface — paired with its lack of fees and low minimums — makes it easy to sign up and get started quickly. And that makes it ideal if you’re the kind of person who has thought about opening an investment account but just never got around to it.

However, it is worth thinking about where an app like Public fits within your overall financial plan. Public doesn’t offer the ability to invest in an IRA, which allows you to pay significantly less in taxes during retirement.

For most people — and especially those who are saving for their future a little bit at a time — investing in market-tracking assets within a tax-advantaged account like an IRA is the best possible long-term choice. Therefore, Public should not be the lynchpin of your retirement savings plan; it serves better as a supplementary avenue for riskier, explorative investments beyond your core financial portfolio.

Additionally, while it’s nice to be able to trade crypto on the platform, the lack of a way to transfer your crypto to a private wallet means there are better alternatives available. See our article on the best crypto micro-investing apps to learn more.

So, while Public is a solid choice for beginners looking to invest in stocks, it’s important to make sure you’re in a financial position to trade individual stocks. Generally, that means having a plan for retirement other than your Public account and investing in that plan up to the annual maximum contribution. Then, you have more freedom to invest a portion of your savings in individual stocks of your own choosing.

R.J. Weiss
R.J. Weiss, founder of The Ways To Wealth, has been a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ since 2010. Holding a B.A. in finance and having completed the CFP® certification curriculum at The American College, R.J. combines formal education with a deep commitment to providing unbiased financial insights. Recognized as a trusted authority in the financial realm, his expertise is highlighted in major publications like Business Insider, New York Times, and Forbes.

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