Public app review, pros and cons, commissions, fees, account minimums, trading platform, IRA investment research tools, education, and customer service. Rating: brokerage rating

  • Minimum to open: $0
  • Stocks & ETFs: $0
  • Options: $0
  • Mutual Funds: n/a

Overview of

While its name may not sound like a brokerage firm, offers several unique trading services that are worth considering. Here’s our review of this unique investing outfit:

Investing System

Public App Investing Rating

Public offers self-directed accounts. It does not offer financial-planning or investment-advisory services. With a self-managed account, it’s possible to trade the following asset classes:

  • Cryptocurrencies
  • Treasury bonds (but not other types of bonds)
  • Exchange-traded funds
  • Closed-end funds
  • Stocks
  • Options
  • Alternative investments

The alternative-investment service offers trading in shares of collectible items, like Air Jordans, Banksy paintings, digital artwork, and famous video games. securitizes these physical and intangible assets and then releases the shares on its platform for trading. review

There is only one tax structure at Public: the individual taxable account. There are no retirement or other tax-deferred accounts.

An individual account at Public can sign up for recurring investments in a basket of assets. Public calls this program an Investment Plan. A plan can invest in a maximum of 20 assets. These can be securities or cryptocurrencies.

Another unique investing service is Alpha. This is an Artificial Intelligence that Public is testing in conjunction with GPT-4. It can perform a variety of functions, such delivering analyst recommendations (but not its own recommendations) on a security and summarizing earnings calls as soon as 2 hours after they finish. only opens accounts for U.S. residents who must have U.S. citizenship, permanent residency, or have a valid visa. A Social Security Number is also required.

Securities at Public are protected by America’s defender of brokerage accounts. This, of course, is SIPC. The maximum amount of insurance is $500k. Through Public’s clearing firm Apex, there is an extra policy for stocks and ETFs up to of $37.5 million.

While the alternative investments generally aren’t covered by SIPC, physical assets are protected by Aspen American Insurance Company. Digital and intangible assets are self-insured.

Cash Management

Public App Investing Rating

Public does not offer any noteworthy banking tools, like debit cards or check-writing features. It does have an FDIC-sweep program for uninvested cash. Partner banks include SoFi Bank and BMO Harris.

A Public account can be funded by paper check, ACH transfer, or wire deposit. A really unusual feature Public offers is the ability to fund an account with a debit card (up to $1,000).

Commissions and Minimums

Public App Investing Rating charges commissions in some cases. For example, an over-the-counter or extended-hours trade costs $2.99. Alternative assets cost 2.5% of trade value, and Treasury positions cost 0.05% per month. Trades of an investment plan also have commissions. These have a tiered schedule (from $0.49 to $1.99 per purchase).

Premium members can avoid some, but not all, of these charges. For example, they pay nothing for OTC and extended-hours trades. A Premium membership costs $10 per month or $96 for a year. Additional benefits include VIP customer support, Morningstar research, and personalized portfolio insights.

Premium and non-Premium members alike are subject to Public’s commission on regular stocks and ETFs, which is $0, and its inactivity fee. This is $5 every six months. It can be avoided with a $20 account balance or activity in the past 90 days.

Mobile App

Public App Investing Rating

Public clients get to use a user-friendly mobile app that is compatible with both Android and Apple phones and tablets. The software does leave out some features we hoped to see, like mobile check deposit and live streaming of video news. Nevertheless, there are some useful features. Of particular importance is the trade ticket, which is very easy to use. Available trade types include:

- Market
- Limit
- Stop

Public App Review

Asset profiles on the Public app have icons in the top-right corner to add the asset to a watchlist or set up an alert. There is a chart on the profile, although there are no tools of any kind. A graph cannot be rotated horizontally.

Where the app really shines is in its community forum. This is an opportunity for Public users to connect with each other and discuss potential investments and the day’s market news. There’s a Feed icon in the bottom menu for this social network, and each asset’s profile also has a digital bulletin board at the bottom.


Public App Investing Rating

2 stars Social networking and a watchlist both sync with the website, so it’s really easy to switch between the two platforms. The website also has the same research information the app delivers on specific assets. Surprisingly, charting is just as bad with no tools and no full-screen mode.

Public Brokerage Review

The order ticket has the same order types the mobile app provides. On either platform, it’s possible to set up a recurring purchase schedule for an individual asset.

Public Brokerage Review

Public does not have any other trading platform, such as a browser-based platform or a desktop program.

Asset Research

Public App Investing Rating

2 stars Neither the website nor the mobile app has a screener. Nevertheless, it is possible to find something to trade at Public. Market news is available on the app (through the globe icon that appears in the bottom menu) and on the website (through the Explore link that appears in the left-hand column). There are groups of assets here, including:

- Popular crypto
- Top movers
- Earnings this week
- International stocks (Y shares)
- Popular ETFs

It’s easy to scroll through these tiles and see what assets are in them. Clicking or tapping on an entry pulls up the asset’s profile. Both securities and cryptocurrencies have basic trading stats like 24-hour volume and market capitalization.

Securities have the lion’s share of information. Popular stocks have analysts’ trade recommendations with price targets. During our probing, Bank of America had trade recommendations from no less than 28 analysts.

News articles have thumbnails and links to external sites. Examples of providers include Seeking Alpha, Fox News, and Reuters.

Some resources are available only with a Premium membership. These include the three major financial statements (cash flow, income, and balance sheet).

Margin Service

Public App Investing Rating

0 stars Public does not offer margin trading. All accounts are cash accounts.

Customer Service

Public App Investing Rating

On the Public website and mobile app, there is a chat widget within the Help Center. The chat tool begins in robo format and has the ability to bring on a human rep if needed. Hours for this personalized service are during the weekday only.

During our testing of the chat service, we found it moderately helpful. Within the chat window, there is also a list of FAQs with answers that many Public customers will find helpful. For issues that can wait, Public has a service email address (

The website does offer a few (only a few) self-help features under the settings & privacy page, which will be found under the account tab that appears in the upper-right corner of the site.

The real downside in this category is the lack of phone service. It is not possible to contact a Public representative over the phone at all. This seems like a terrible idea as some issues will in all probability need phone support at some point.

Public Brokerage Review

Bonus Services

Public App Investing Rating

DRIP Service: Cash dividends inside a Public account can be automatically converted into additional shares of the securities that paid them.

Initial Public Offerings: does not offer IPO investing.

Fractional Shares: Generally speaking, trades at Public can be made in either whole shares or whole dollars. Some small issues, like over-the-counter stocks, require a whole-share purchase.

Individual Retirement Accounts: As already mentioned, tax-deferred accounts are not available at Public.

Extended-hours Trading: Public clients can trade securities during the weekday from 8:00 am, New York time, until 8:00 pm. Cryptocurrencies trade around the clock, 7 days a week.

Periodic Mutual Fund Investing: No mutual funds are available.

Fully-paid Securities Lending Program: Public customers earn 10% of the net proceeds on loaned-out shares. The program is through Apex Clearing Corp, Public’s clearing firm. The income is automatically credited to the account the following month.

Our Recommendations

Beginners: On one hand, is designed for novices. It has a large library of educational materials that are written for newbies. On the other hand, the company has no managed accounts, and these would be better for beginning investors. We recommend a hybrid robo-human advisory account with a firm like Webull

Active Stock Trading: Although Public does have some good trading resources, like OTC stocks and fractional-share trading, it just doesn’t have the software to create a pro-level experience. We suggest Charles Schwab instead.

Mutual Funds: Although Public doesn’t have any mutual funds, Firstrade has thousands of them.

Retirement Planning & Long-Term Investing: Public is not designed for retirement saving. Robinhood, by comparison, has lots of long-term planning resources, including a 1% free contribution match.

Small Accounts: Because of Public’s inactivity and other fees, we can’t defend it for small investors. Webull would be a better pick.

Public Brokerage Review Summary

With the sole exception of alternative investments, just doesn’t have anything to make it stand out from the crowd. In fact, it often fails just to be average.

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