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Written by Logan Robison on February 18, 2021
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Acorns vs Public 2024: Best App For Beginners?

Acorns is one of the brokerage firms that comes to mind when you think of investing for beginners. This is, of course, one of the most well-known apps out there for new investors. However, Acorns is not the only investing platform that caters to beginner investors.

Enter Public. Public is a platform built for those who see investing as a social activity. The Public App allows users to invest where their friends invest and take a peek at portfolios of superstar investors.

While both platforms are built for those hoping to take the complications out of investing, you may be drawn to one over another. Here’s why:

Learn More: Robinhood Retirement 3% Match

Robinhood is a popular "all-in-one" investing app.

While they are most well-known for their commission free stock trading, they've recently shaken up the Retirement Investing World too.

Introducing Robinhood Retirement; home of the biggest IRA match on the market.

Robinhood IRA Boost

Here's what you need to know:

  • Robinhood offers 2 types of retirement accounts - the Roth IRA and Traditional IRA
  • All Robinhood investors will get a 1% Match on what they Contribute or Transfer
  • Robinhood Gold members will get a 3% Match - the biggest on the market

And don't worry, this comes with a Portfolio Builder Tool. You don't have to construct your investment portfolio from scratch if you don't want to.

Lastly, you'll even get a free stock worth up to $200 when you open a new Robinhood account using our link.

Best Free Stock Promotions

Robinhood Logo1 Free Fractional Share Worth Up To $200Learn More
Webull LogoEarn Up To 75 Free Fractional SharesLearn More
Moomoo Logo7 Free Stocks When You Deposit $100+Learn More
Acorns Logo$20 Bonus When You Invest $5+Learn More

Acorns vs Public Overview

  • Public allows investors to interact with other investors through chat and comment functions
  • It also offers trading without commissions or account minimums
  • Public offers automatic dividend reinvestment and offers you a free $10 stock slice when you open an account
  • Finally, Public offers prebuilt portfolios or investment themes that are free to invest in as well as fractional shares
  • Acorns allows users to invest passively by rounding up purchases to the nearest dollar
  • However, users must pay for a monthly subscription ranging from $1 to $5 
  • There are no individual stocks on Acorns, just 5 portfolios to choose from
  • Acorns is great for those who are less diligent about saving/investing

Offer valid for U.S. residents 18+ and subject to account approval. See

CostRanging from $1 - $5 per monthFree
Key FeaturesRound Ups and online bankingSocial features such as feeds and chat functions
Investment AccountsBrokerage & RetirementBrokerage
Best forNew investors who are bad at savingNew investors who like the idea of social investing
Individual Share PurchaseNoYes
Fractional SharesNoYes
Pre-Built PortfoliosYesYes

What Is Acorns? 

Acorns is rightfully known as the app you should download if you know you should be saving on a regular basis, but just can’t bring yourself to do it. This app's specialty is helping people invest their loose change wisely in securities.

To make matters even more simple, Acorns gives its users three tiers of membership so they can choose how involved they want to be. The less expensive the program, the more limited the features.

Acorns Lite ($1/mo)

For $1 / mo. users have access to both Acorns Invest and Found Money partners to get started investing.

Acorns Invest

Utilizing Acorns Invest means each purchase will be rounded up to the nearest dollar and the extra funds will be invested into the portfolio you choose.

Let’s look at an example. You just went out to eat and the total bill including tip (thank you service workers) comes to $35.76. Acorns will charge your credit card the remaining $0.24 rounding your total purchase up to $36 and investing $0.24 for you. This is called Round-Ups.

Those Round-Ups are then invested into ETFs ranging from conservative to aggressive. There are breakdowns of large-cap stocks, small-cap stocks, international stocks, real estate stocks, government bonds, and corporate bonds.

Whatever the fund, Acorns uses automatic rebalancing to make sure you stay on track to reach your goals.

Found Money Partners

Acorns has established relationships with over 350 brands that will reward you for shopping with them. Similar to cashback from credit cards, these companies will return some of the money you spend directly into your investment accounts.

For example, if Walmart is offering a 5% investment if you purchase an item from their product line, they will take 5% of your purchase and give it back to you through Round-Ups.

Roundups are essentially cashback sent directly to your investment portfolio. 

Acorns Personal ($3/mo)

This next tier offers added benefits stacked on top of Acorns Lite. At $3 a month, Acorns says this is their most popular subscription. This subscription gives you access to Acorns Later and Acorns Spend.

Acorns Later

This popular feature called Acorns Later is an IRA (Roth, Traditional, or SEP). Depending on some information you provide like your age, goals, risk tolerance, and lifestyle, Acorns will help you pick the best IRA and low-cost portfolio for you.

Unfortunately, unlike Acorns Invest, which rounds up your spare change, contributions to Acorns Later can only be made by one-time or recurring deposits.

The minimum balance here is $5 and with a monthly fee of $3, be sure that the benefit is worth the cost. A $3 monthly fee can eat away at your earnings especially if your balance is low.

Acorns Spend

Diving into the world of online banking, Acorns Spend gives users access to digital direct deposits, mobile check deposits, free bank-to-bank transfers, and unlimited free or fee-reimbursed ATMs nationwide. This program is built off Acorns Round-Ups technology so all purchases made with the Acorns Spend debit card will be rounded up and invested.  

Acorns Spend has no minimum balance, no account fees, and each account is backed by the FDIC up to $250,000.

Acorns Family ($5/mo)

As a bonus, Acorns has added a new option called Acorns Family. With this option, the whole gang can join in with investment accounts for kids known as custodial accounts.

This option also includes all of the benefits of Acorns Personal but with a $5 per month price tag.

Acorns Pros

  • Round-Ups make sure that you are investing consistently
  • Different subscription options for different investors
  • Cash back options through Found Money partners
  • Family investing options

Acorns Cons

  • Limited investment portfolios
  • Relatively expensive robo-adviser fees for smaller accounts

What Is Public?

Public takes a different approach to an investment platform by using social media and providing a way for investors to communicate about investing ideas within the platform.

Public Features

To cut to the chase, Public’s offering is fairly standard with zero account minimums, no commissions, and fractional shares. However, it offers innovative features like chat/social functions to make Public a great option for first-time investors.

Social Investing

The Public App allows investors to follow investing favorites and connect with friends and see their investing activity. Observe where your friends are making moves and putting their money through a Facebook-like feed of comments and actions.

Investors who take advantage of this platform have an incredible opportunity to get feedback on their strategy from advanced and seasoned investors.

Investing Options

Public has +5,000 stocks or ETFs to choose from. These include big-ticket companies like Apple, Amazon, and Facebook. You can even separate by industry or search by category instead of typing in a specific ticker symbol.

Public does not allow day-trading or margin investing meaning that Public may prefer investing for the long term and subscribes to a buy and hold methodology.

When researching a company, its description and other information like trends, comments, and company history are also available. Public also provides a list of subsidiary companies that the company owns. This allows you to be relatively informed before making an investment decision.

Public also offers many ETFs created by some well-known financial institutions: BlackRock, Fidelity, and Vanguard. These firms certainly know how to build top-performing portfolios of stocks so investing with them is often the more intelligent route.

By taking advantage of these low-cost options, investors can easily diversify their portfolios without spending hours researching individual companies.

Account Minimums and Commissions

Public has waived all account minimums and commissions for their investment accounts.

This signals that Public wants to ensure that users have the best chance at success in the arena of investing.

Account minimums and commissions eat away at your earnings. With Public, whatever you earn, you keep (excluding taxes and other miscellaneous fees as imposed by the SEC. Thanks, Uncle Sam).

The Public App also offers an optional automatic dividend reinvestment (DRIP). Investing your dividends is a lot like compound interest. You make money by investing money in stocks that pay dividends and then those dividends act as additional investment, earning your more interest and dividends.

Fractional Shares

Instead of saving up for a long time to purchase an expensive stock, you can attack that slowly by using fractional shares to invest in dollar amounts instead of in whole shares. This reduces the amount of idle cash you'll have sitting on the sidelines with your portfolio.

Public sets itself apart from many other brokerage firms by allowing you to invest the exact amount you can afford with fractional shares.

Public Pros

  • Fractional shares
  • No account minimums or commission fees
  • A social aspect with chat and activity feed
  • Dividend reinvestment plan to take advantage of compound interest
  • $10 free stock slice when you sign up

Public Cons

  • Limited account options (no tax-advantaged retirement accounts)
  • No mutual funds
  • No ability to day trade
  • Limited financial data

Conclusion: Public vs Acorns

Both of these apps appeal to different users. Acorns appeals to investors who typically struggle to remember that they need to be investing. Public, on the other hand, is a great app for investors who want to trade for free and use a social investing platform.

Neither Acorns or Public allow day-trading or advanced financial strategies so that investors can stay focused on what matters most.

While Acorns comes at a monthly expense, it also offers more advanced features like Round-Ups and mobile banking. Public is free and gives beginner investors an easy to use platform to get started investing.

Don't forget to grab your free stock worth up to $200 from Robinhood today!

Article written by Logan Robison
Logan graduated with a degree in finance from Brigham Young University and currently works in merchandising for a large retailer. In his free time he loves to hike and camp with his wife and son. Logan is also heavily involved in real estate investing and owns properties in Utah and Arkansas.

Read more

Power Your Investing

Choosing the right product and service is essential for your investing. Here are some of the tools and services to help your portfolio grow.
Robinhood provides an easy-to-use free trading platform for beginner investors. Robinhood has $0 account minimums. Get a free stock when you open an account below.
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M1 Finance
M1 Finance offers a free investing platform where users can build portfolios of stocks and ETFs. Users can also choose from a variety of pre-built portfolios offered for free.
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Passively invest in private real estate deals with as little as $10. Fundrise allows you to own residential and commercial real estate across the U.S. starting at a 1% annual fee.
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