public review

Public Review: Commission-Free Brokerage For Everyday Investment

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Last updated on May 6, 2021

Scrambling for a last-minute birthday gift for a person who has everything? Or maybe they’re just hard to buy for?

Sure, you can buy a nice gift basket filled with treats or a gift card, but that’s also likely what others are doing, too. Instead, give the gift of income growth by getting your friends and family stock.

Yes, you can gift stock–and they’re totally affordable. Public is a stock trading app that’s geared towards newbie investors that allows you to purchase stocks for as little as $5 (they’re also currently running a special, where you can gift $50 worth of free stock!). If Christmas shopping was a nightmare for you this season, Public is sure to make your life easier come holiday time. It’s an out of the box gift idea for everyone.

If you’re wondering if this app is worth it, the answer is, it depends. Keep reading as we dive into what the app is all about, how it works and who it’s best for.

About Public App

Previously called Matador, Public relaunched in September 2019 and is a stock-trading app available to the general public. It’s available for both Android and iOS and features more user-friendly features and interface. Some of these features include free access to trading, and a social component to it–you can see what other popular users and friends are buying and selling. The idea is that you can get ideas for stocks in Public, though it shouldn’t replace the advice of a financial professional.

Founded by Jannick Malling and Matt Kennedy, their aim is to make trading more inclusive. Investors can purchase fractional shares of stocks, which we’ll talk about more below. As for how Public makes money, it does so in a few ways, including securities lending, smart order routing and earning interest in any uninvested cash sitting in accounts. The company plans on rolling out a subscription service, though that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

How Public Works

As an investing app with no fees on trades or account minimums, it gives you the opportunity to invest in “slices” or fractional shares so that you can own a piece of stock from a public company. This makes it super affordable, especially for those who can’t afford to spend around $1,000 for one share of Amazon stock.

That doesn’t mean you can’t invest in full shares of stocks. It’s possible since Public offers access to some advanced order types–market orders, limit orders and stop orders.

Considering you can now gift stocks for the holiday season, pretty much anyone over the age of 18 can start investing. In any case, you can also open an account for yourself in a little as a few minutes.

Once you’ve signed up for an account, you can search for stock ideas by looking through what other users have traded or browse through Public’s curated collections. For example, “The Future is Female” is a collection of female-founded companies. You can also create a public profile which shows other people what you’ve invested in (without showing specific amounts) and you can browse other profiles as well. The idea is to get tips from others to help inform your own trading strategy.

If you’re taking advantage of Public gifting feature, select the stock you want (or look through their suggestions) to gift. Then provide either an email address or phone number for Public to send the gift (of which they’ll be notified immediately), which can be up to $50. The recipient will need to be a Public member in order to receive the gift.

Either way, the big appeal is that Public is free to use and you can trade any ETF or stock, with the exception of stocks sold over the counter. Any money that sits in your account (meaning, it’s not invested) can earn up to 2.5% up to $10,000.

Keep in mind this app isn’t for people who want to trade frequently, like day traders. You’ll be limited to four trades (buying stocks then selling them) each day.

How to Sign up For Public

Signing up for Public is as simple as heading to Google Play or the Apple App Store to download the app. You can even head to Public’s website and enter your cell phone number and it’ll text you the link.

Once you’ve downloaded the app, you’ll need to answer a few personal details before your account is opened. This includes your address, birthday, employment information, marital status, dependents (if any), employer and Social Security number.

Afterwards, you can access Public’s social platform, though what you’ll be able to see is limited until you complete the account opening process by setting up your brokerage account.

Features

Debit Card Funding

One of the primary reasons for Public’s ascent to the top of its industry is its ability to simplify investing.

Unlike many competitors, Public allows members to fund their account with a debit card. Not only does this make investing more inclusive, but it also allows for instant access to funds.

While there may still be times when you want to fund your account with a bank transfer — such as if you’re transferring more than the debit card limit of $1,000 — this option is both simple and instant.

Town Hall

So many companies in the finance space are secretive in their dealings. Public is taking a different stance with its Town Hall feature.

Public’s Town Halls allow members to ask questions and receive answers from the CEOs and leaders of public companies.

As live, written questions and answers appear in the app, they’re available for easy viewing by all members.

For example, the first two individuals to participate in a Town Hall event were:

  • Lemonade Co-Founder, President, and COO Shai Wininger
  • Bumble Founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd

With the app, you have the power to ask whatever is on your mind. And that will allow you to make more informed and confident investing decisions.

Pros and Cons

Before signing up for Public, consider some of the advantages and disadvantages of the app.

Pros

  • No fees:  There are no account minimums, commission or trading fees.
  • Ability to invest in fractional shares of stocks: You can invest in “slices” for as little as $5.
  • Look for inspiration or ideas from other investors: Browse through other profiles if you need ideas of what to invest in.
  • User-friendly app: The clutter-free design and simple features makes it easy to navigate.
  • Earn interest in uninvested cash: Public offers 2.5% interest, which is pretty high compared to other brokerages

Cons

  • Limited features for advanced traders: As mentioned above, you can’t day trade using this app, so it’s better for those who are more interested in a more passive type of investing.
  • Lack of “privacy”: To be clear, Public’s security features are top-notch. But, if you’re a person that doesn’t want people to know what stocks and ETFs you’re buying and selling, then this app may not be for you.
  • Limited automation tools: You won’t find features that help you in terms of things like making recurring deposits to your account, though that’s supposed to change soon.
  • No direct investments in cryptocurrency: Yes, you can buy blockchain-related stocks and ETFs, but you’re currently unable to directly invest in this type of currency.

Is Public For You?

Public can be a great way to get started investing in stocks, especially if you don’t have a lot of cash to purchase an entire share of stock. It’s also great if you’re interested in a platform where members can see what others are buying or selling. Whether you’re after free trades, a great interest rate on uninvested cash or a more social way to invest, it’s worth taking a look at Public.

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