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Written by Cari Scribner on February 4, 2021
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Public App Review 2022: Best Investing App?

There are plenty of investing apps out there offering commission-free trading and ways to buy fractional shares. But how many make it a social experience?

Whether you’re a newb to investing or have been in the game for a few years, it always helps to talk strategy, compare notes, and glean insight from your peers (or even your role models!)

Conversely, you can offer hopefully helpful advice to other fledgling investors who are on the fence when it comes to taking the plunge.

Public is a mobile phone brokerage app that’s been around a while but was recently renamed. Formerly known as Matador, it was founded in 2019 but rebranded two years later.

The new name fits the platform, since it sets out to bring investing to the masses, not hold it secretively among only the elite upper echelon. Because when it comes right down to it, sharing collective experiences benefits all investors, large and small.

Here's our full review of Public.

Public App
  • Pricing
  • Beginner Friendly
  • Account Types
  • Sign Up Incentive
  • Social Investing
  • Research/Data Tools


Public is a great commission free brokerage app for beginners. The app is very simple, and the fractional stock slices make it so anyone can invest. It aims to make investing a social experience, with a built in investing community. If you sign up with them, you get a free $5 stock slice too!


  • Free $5 stock slice when you sign up
  • No trading commissions
  • Social investing
  • Choose from 30+ themes or individual stocks


  • Limited asset selection
  • No retirement accounts
  • Limited research tools

What Is Public?

Public is a mobile app-based brokerage platform offering people the avenue to buy and sell shares of stock while paying zero commissions.

They offer fractional investing, a trendy term also known as micro-investing. This means you can buy small amounts of a stock or ETF without paying the minimum price for a single share. Instead, you buy a piece of one share.

Public calls these micro-shares “slices,” and like cake or pie they are neither too large nor too small: they can be just right for you.

By slicing stock shares into smaller units, Public makes them less daunting to purchase and also easier on the wallet. Instead of paying by the share, you pay by the dollar.

This allows you to get exposure to expensive stocks like Tesla for only a couple dollars!

Community Investing

As an investor (even with only one slice!) with Public, the door is open to you to engage with other traders to see what’s working for them, and what isn’t.

Public calls this a community of investors, and there is no particular demographic. Some are just starting out, dipping their toes in the water with a few conservative trades. Others may be risk-takers juggling a diverse portfolio. And others could be people actually working in the industry that are considered to be experts.

You can jump in on a discussion, direct message people, or build a group chat of your own. However you assemble your community, you can follow other traders and watch the financial maneuvers they are making.

Conversations may focus on how a particular stock is performing, risk strategies, or even the weather forecast! Generally, however, you should probably focus your comments on the stock market.

Since these chats were designed with investors in mind, you can even embed charts and graphs into your discussion.

The folks at Public are constantly adding more features to chat to make it possible to communicate effectively about your investments.

You're also able to follow other investors and keep up to date with a public feed of their investments!

Beginner Friendly Investing

Public’s mobile platform is truly made for beginners.

It is visually simple to understand. You can look at your account balances, investments, and watchlists with the tap of a button.

There’s practically no learning curve when it comes to getting used to Public’s mobile platform. You can also take a look at who on your feed owns or watches the stock, as well as earnings data and stats like dividend yield, market cap, and volume.

Public Brokerage Stock Investing

What’s Your Groove?

When you are ready to start micro-investing with Public, you can choose from either preloaded themes or picking individual stocks that look like good bets to you.

The themes may be a good way to start out if you're a complete beginner.

Public themes are carefully crafted lists designed to let you discover new companies and support those with missions in line with your own. In other words, here’s your chance to make a difference in the world.

There are more than 30 different themes ranging from environmentally sound initiatives to companies owned by women.

Here is a sampling of themes:

  • Self-driving Cars: Includes companies such as Uber, Intel, IBM, Google, and Micron Technology.
  • Alternative/Green Power: Features companies including First Solar, Canadian Solar, Next Era Energy, Brookfield Renewable Partners.
  • Meatless Revolution: Includes companies such as Beyond Meat, Hain Celestial, Conagra, United Natural Foods, and Ingredion.
  • Recycle, Reuse and Reduce: Federal Signal, Clean Harbors, Waste Connections, Republic Services.
  • In The Water: Such as New York Water, Aqua America, and Advanced Drainage Systems.

Public Fund

Build Your Own Portfolio

Within the Public app, you have the ability to set up multiple different portfolios. For example, you could create a long-term portfolio of investments you plan to hold on to for decades. You could also create a short-term portfolio for your investments you plan to sell in the near future.

If you feel strongly about why you'll be holding an investment for the long-term, you can also make a post about it to the community and see what others think.

This can be a good way to hear an alternative perspective on your investments and challenge your beliefs.

ETF Investing

With Public, you're not limited to just investing in stocks. You can also choose to invest in ETFs or "exchange-traded funds" which are essentially baskets of stocks that provide diversification across an entire sector or the market as a whole.

Many of the ETFs available on public are designed by world-class investment firms like BlackRock, Fidelity, and Vanguard. These funds often charge much lower fees to investors than mutual funds and over time tend to outperform more expensive mutual funds.

Investing in individual stocks can submit you to more volatility and fluctuations in your investing. This can be nerve-wracking for a newer investor who may benefit from the lower volatility that ETFs have to offer.

Dividend Reinvestment Plan (DRIP)

Many beginner investors have heard of the marvels of compound interest. By allowing your interest to accumulate interest, you can grow your portfolio exponentially over time.

One of the most effective ways to take advantage of compound interest is through a dividend reinvestment plan. This allows investors to use their dividends to buy more shares of stock instead of receiving them as cash.

Public offers investors access to a DRIP that they can utilize to reinvest their dividends into fractional shares of stock. Investors that are planning for the long term would do well to look into the benefits of reinvesting their dividends and consider enabling this feature.

Customer Service

Public has a customer support team available to guide you through any additional questions you may have. This support comes at no charge to you. However, with just two brick-and-mortar locations (Copenhagen and NY), it can be difficult to access a live person.

Some of the info you may be looking for can be found in the educational articles and FAQs on the website.

The FAQ section is a primer on how to use the platform efficiently, detailing the ins-and-outs of topics like funding, spreads, tracking results, transferring a current account over to Public, and understanding a variety of company profiles.

There’s also an education center, with a plethora of articles on topics pertaining to the stock market as a whole. You can glean inside info on more advanced topics, all explained in ways the average Joe can understand, rather than being overwhelmed by technical jargon.

The Public watchlist is a great way to track companies that catch your eye and see the latest news about them, how they're trading and how they are anticipated to trend in the near future.

Safety Procedures

Many investing apps like Robinhood come under significant scrutiny for not clearly explaining terms and investment vehicles to their users. Public is determined to do just the opposite.

As a platform targeted at beginners, Public sees it as their obligation to explain new terms and investing strategies to all users.

Included in their safety measures are the following:

  • Safeguards built-in for riskier stocks
  • Full explanations around investing-related terms when they appear
  • Day trading is not allowed on the platform
  • No use of margin or ability to borrow from Public to purchase more investments
  • No exotic or advanced investment instruments offered like options

By putting these measures in place, Public is sacrificing some of the most lucrative opportunities for them to make money. For example, if they offered margin trading as many other investing apps do, they could make a significant amount from the interest charged to investors.

However, they recognize that many newer investors do not need margin and often end up doing more harm than good with it. Public has created a simple platform for beginners with guardrails in place to help keep them safe.

But it is important to remember that all investments involve some degree of risk and nothing is guaranteed.

Public Free Stocks

When you open a Public account on the mobile app, they will give you $10 worth of any one stock. Unlike many other apps, Public actually allows you to choose which stock you want to receive.

Also, people who invite friends that open accounts will qualify for additional free (fractional) shares of stocks valued at up to $50. Bonus: You get to pick the stock for your buddy.

Accounts can generally be created by any U.S. resident over the age of 18. You will need a social security number to set up an account.

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

Public Brokerage top movers and losers

How Does Public Make Money?

Since they are not making money on commissions, how does Public stay afloat?

Securities Lending

There are some people whose investment strategy includes shorting stock.

Short selling simply means that someone will borrow stock in order to sell it at the current market price, with the goal of buying it back at a lower price and returning the borrowed shares to the lender.

The Public clearinghouse is connected to a network of these types of investors and can lend out stock to them to short, which generates revenue for them. Also, Public’s clearing house is allowed to lend your securities to other correspondents, and they earn money on that through lending rebates.

Interest on Cash Balances

Public earns interest on uninvested cash balances. The current interest rate as set by the Federal Reserve is 0.2%.

Payment For Order Flow

A very common practice among brokerages and investing apps is collecting payment for order flow.

Its clearing firm directs investor’s orders to order routing destinations, and on certain transactions, apps receive a rebate. However, it is important to note the clearing firm must always seek the best price for your order, regardless of any potential rebate.

As of February 2022, Public no longer makes money through this method. Instead, they have replaced it with optional tipping.

Optional Tipping

Any time you make a purchase on Public, you are given the option to provide a small tip to the platform. This was brought about as a result of growing distrust towards apps that had a vested interest in benefiting the big guys on Wall Street.

Public took a very strong stance and decided that they were going to stand up for the little guy. As a result, they eliminated PFOF (payment for order flow) and instead allow users to leave a tip.

Some users may choose to tip to thank Public for the stance they have taken on this issue. Other users may choose not to tip. There is no requirement eitherway.

No Subscription Fees

Currently, Public does not have any paid-for premium features, but company literature states new products are underway as they continue to move the platform forward, and some of these could carry a subscription fee.

What’s In, What’s Not

Public brokerage app offers trading in these asset classes:

The following assets are not yet available:

It's likely that many of these riskier assets will never be added to Public. This is due to the fact that they are a beginner-friendly platform and do not want to provide extremely risky investments to their users.

Additionally, investors will not have access to any retirement accounts with Public. However, it's entirely possible to have a retirement account elsewhere and a normal brokerage account with Public.

Public commission free stock trading app

Public Pros

  • Fractional investing
  • Social networking built-in
  • Learn from other investors on the platform
  • Zero trade commissions
  • Dividend reinvestment plan to accumulate compound interest
  • Free $5 stock slice when you sign up
  • Simple interface makes it very easy for beginners to get started

Public Cons

  • Limited investment options
  • No vehicles for retirement savings
  • Best for small investors or people just starting out

Final Verdict: Public Investing App

Public wants people to know they can get a slice of the investment pie without breaking the bank (or selling all their stuff on e-Bay).

You don’t need more than a couple of bucks to start investing on the platform.  You can buy micro-shares, chit-chat with other investors and put your money where your mouth is by investing in companies whose ethics and goals mirror your own. It’s a solid start to your investing future.

This won't be a great platform for you if you're looking to do any active trading. For that, we'd recommend looking into Webull as this app provides features specific to active traders.

However, for beginner investors looking to implement a buy-and-hold strategy, Public is a great option. The app is designed with simplicity in mind and with an eye for making things simple for newer investors.

Many other investing apps out there would overwhelm a complete beginner, but not Public!

Whether you choose to invest with Public or find another app to meet your needs, what's important is that you start investing. Warren Buffet, one of the greatest investors of our time, is a big proponent of investing for the long haul, and to do that, you need to start early.

Happy investing!

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Public Brokerage Review
Article written by Cari Scribner
Cari Scribner is a career journalist with 20 year’s experience writing for newspapers and magazines. Now a freelance writer, she is also a published fiction writer with more than 15 short stories in literary mags. She recently completed a novel that is on the desk for consideration at two publishing houses. She lives with her two small dogs, Miloh and Lucy, in Upstate NY.

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