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Public vs. Robinhood: Which Investing App is Best For you?

Public and Robinhood are two investing platforms offering commission-free trades, no account minimums, and clean-looking interfaces.

Public.com vs. Robinhood

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In a world filled with dozens of online brokerages, it can be tricky to find one that’s right for you. Plus, when comparing two industry-leading brokerages, like Public and Robinhood, figuring out which of these two platforms is best for your investing needs is particularly challenging.

The good news is that we’re here to help.

In this Public vs. Robinhood head-to-head match-up, we’ll compare every aspect and feature of these two brokerages. That way, you can find an online broker that works for your investing style.

Overview Public vs. Robinhood

Both Public and Robinhood are popular choices for investors looking for a simple, yet functional online trading platform. Here’s a quick overview of each company to kick off our review:

Public Logo
3.9
3.9/5

In A Nutshell: Public is a social investing platform. What this means is that investors can interact with each other by using the Public’s mobile app. Public facilitates the process of investing by offering fractional shares. The company offers $0 commission trades on stocks and ETFs.

on Public’s website

Robinhood Logo
3.8
3.8/5

In A Nutshell: Robinhood allows you to make unlimited commission-free trades in stocks, ETFs, options and crypto. You can access professional research reports, trade on margin, and make bigger instant deposits with Robinhood Gold for $5 a month.

on Robinhood’s website

About Public

A relative newcomer to the online brokerage industry, Public.com is a financial firm that labels itself as a social investing platform.

Like other brokerages, Public allows you to open an account and trade securities. However, they put a unique spin on the concept of an online brokerage by allowing you to share investing insights and ideas with other traders. You can do this through Public’s social network. There, you can communicate with other investors to discuss their investing ideas in real-time. That way, everyone can learn more about investing in an inclusive environment.

Read our full Public.com review to learn more.

What is Public.com
Source: Public

See Also: 12 Best Online Brokers

About Robinhood

Like Public, Robinhood is a relatively young online brokerage. The company got its start in 2013. Their goal is to make investing available to everyone, not just Wall Street traders. 

It was one of the first companies to do away with commission fees, which made it particularly popular among younger traders. 

These days, Robinhood primarily bills itself as a low-cost self-directed investing platform. With Robinhood, traders can buy and sell US-listed stocks, ETFs, and options as well as some cryptocurrencies on their user-friendly app and online trading portal.

Check out our full Robinhood review to learn more.

Public vs. Robinhood: Main Features

While both Public and Robinhood market themselves as low-cost online brokerages, each has unique features. So, you must know what you’re getting into before you sign up. This is what you need to know:

Public Logo Robinhood Logo
Minimum Investment $0 $0
Fees $0 $0
Trading Commissions $0 per trade $0 per trade
Investment Types Stocks and ETFs Stocks, ETFs, Options and Cryptocurrencies
Account Types Individual Taxable Individual Taxable
Platforms Mobile (iOS / Android) Web-based, Mobile (iOS / Android) and Watch (watchOS)
Promotions Free $10 stock slice Get 1 Free Stock
Fractional Shares
Individual Stocks
Dividend Reinvestment (DRIP)
Best For Beginner social investors Beginner active traders

Public

Public is a trading platform with a social network where investors can discuss the latest in market trends. With Public, there are a few key features that you ought to know about, such as:

Low-Cost Investing

All accounts with Public are free to open and maintain. There are no minimum balances, no monthly maintenance fees, and no hidden charges just for investing with the platform. Plus, they offer access to commission-free stock and ETF trades as well as fractional shares investing.

Brand Transparency

When you invest with Public, you have instant access to tons of information about all the stocks on the platform. These resources include something called “brand transparency,” which is a way to see all of the brands and subsidies that a company owns before you invest.

As a result, Public makes it easier for you to invest in companies that align with your values. That way, you can make educated decisions about where you put your money.

Automatic Dividend Reinvestment

If you invest in stocks or ETFs that pay dividends, Public makes it easy for you to automatically reinvest your earnings. With their automatic dividend reinvestment program, you can put all your earnings to good use right away instead of having unused cash sitting on the sidelines in your account.

Social Features

Public is all about making the investment process as public as possible. Therefore, when you sign up for an account, you’ll get access to a social media-esque community where you can share ideas with other traders. 

For example, when you invest in a new stock, Public will automatically share your holdings with the community. This allows you to discuss your decisions with others and learn more about the trading process.

Educational Resources

In addition to the Public community, the brokerage also offers a slew of other educational resources for investors. 

This includes their virtual events where you can listen to experts discuss the latest market trends. Additionally, the platform has a dedicated learning center where you can research investing basics.

Finally, Public has a feature called Time Ticker Machine that lets you see how much you might’ve made by investing in a particular stock at a specific time. For example, it lets you discover how much you would have now if you had invested $100 in Google in 2005 to help you visualize the power of compound growth.

Other Key Features

  • Investing Themes: Public classifies all the stocks on their platform into different themes to help you find investments that suit your interests. For example, you can search the “Green Power” theme for stocks in the renewable energy sector.
  • Referral Program: Anyone that invites new users to Public can earn a reward of up to $50 per referral. This money can then be used to invest in stocks of your choice.
  • Top Movers: Public provides quick access to a list of all the stocks that have had the largest gains or losses during a trading day. That way, you can spot potential investments with ease.
  • Real-Time Investing: All Public account holders can place, buy, and sell orders in real-time during the trading day.

Robinhood

When it first hit the market back in 2013, Robinhood brought a brand-new feature to the investment industry: commission-free trading. Since then, they’ve greatly expanded their investment features to help traders like you make the most of their money. 

Here are some of the top features of Robinhood that are worth considering before you open an account.

Low-Cost Stocks, ETFs, and Options Trading

As the pioneers in commission-free trading, it comes as no surprise that stocks, ETFs, and options trades with Robinhood are commission-free. The company also offers low-cost accounts with no minimum balance requirements so everyone can start investing.

Margin Trading

In addition to cash-based trading, Robinhood offers margins trading to certain account holders. 

Anyone with a minimum balance of at least $2,000 can trade on a margin using a Robinhood Instant or Gold account. Doing so allows you to leverage your assets so you can purchase securities using a loan from Robinhood.

The brokerage offers margin rates that are as low as 2.5%, which are some of the most competitive in the industry.

Crypto Trading

With Robinhood, you can buy and sell Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin without paying a commission fee or a surcharge.

However, we should mention that you can’t withdraw any crypto that you buy with your Robinhood account to store in an offline wallet. So, Robinhood’s crypto trades are best for investors rather than people who want to buy crypto to use for daily purchases.

Robinhood Gold

If you’re looking for access to more in-depth market analysis tools, Robinhood Gold might be what you need.

Robinhood Gold is the brokerage’s premium account service. It costs $5 per month and provides Level II market data from the Nasdaq stock exchange to help in your research and analysis.

Furthermore, Robinhood Gold provides you with the ability to instantly transfer up to $5,000 into your account. That way, you can immediately start investing your funds without having to wait tow to three business days for them to credit to your account.

Other Key Features

  • Fractional Shares Investing: With fractional shares investing, Robinhood lets all account holders buy fractions of a stock for as little as $1.
  • Cash Management: In addition to investment accounts, Robinhood offers a checking account-style feature called Cash Management for all your banking needs.
  • Referral Program: Robinhood account holders can earn free stocks every time they invite friends to the platform.
  • Robinhood Snacks: Account-holders can access Robinhood Snacks, an educational hub with free resources to help you become a better investor.
How Does Robinhood Works
Source: Robinhood

See Also: 7 Best Micro-Investing Apps

Public vs. Robinhood: Investment Options

An investment account is only useful if to you if it provides you with access to the investment products that you’re interested in trading. So, understanding the various investment options available to you at Public and Robinhood is of the utmost importance. This is what you can expect with both companies:

Public

Public supports trades of US-listed stocks and ETFs. They provide access to real-time trading, so you can freely buy and sell securities during market hours.

Furthermore, Public allows fractional shares trading. This means you can purchase parts of a stock share for as little as $5 per slice without the need to pay for an entire share, making trading more accessible to people with limited capital.

Robinhood

With Robinhood, you can buy and sell US-listed stocks, ETFs, and options. The company also offers limited access to foreign stocks through American Depositary Receipts (ADRs). Robinhood even allows you to buy fractional shares of stocks for as little as $1.

Additionally, Robinhood offers crypto trading. They currently support Bitcoin, Dogecoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin, though they plan to add more crypto options soon.

Public vs. Robinhood: Account Types

When you invest with Public or Robinhood you’ll first need to figure out which account type is right for your needs. These are the different types of accounts that you can open with each brokerage:

Public 

Public only supports taxable individual brokerage accounts. This means that they don’t offer joint brokerage accounts nor individual retirement accounts (IRA).

Robinhood

Like Public, Robinhood currently only supports taxable individual brokerage accounts. 

Of course, this could change at any time as Robinhood adds new features to its platform in the coming years. But, right now, Robinhood does not support joint, trust, retirement, or custodial accounts.

Public vs. Robinhood: Sign up Bonus

If you’re going to sign up for an online brokerage, you might as well get a reward for your efforts. So, here are some of the sign-up bonuses that Robinhood and Public offer when you create an account:

Public

When you sign up for a new account with Public, the brokerage credits you with a free stock slice worth $10. The brokerage generally allows you to choose your preferred stock slice from a list of about nine different companies.

Public Investing App Social Features
Source: Public

See Also: 12 Best Investment Apps: For Beginners & Pros

Robinhood

All new Robinhood account owners are eligible to receive a free stock. Each stock is valued between $2 and $225, though receiving a stock that’s worth $225 is quite rare. 

Account-holders don’t have any control over what stock they receive as part of this promotional deal. But, if you don’t like the stock that you receive, you can sell it after two trading days.

Public vs. Robinhood: Fees & Pricing

Both Public and Robinhood bill themselves as low-cost investing platforms. While these brokerages do generally live up to their low-cost promise, it’s still important that you understand all of their various fees before you open an account.

Here’s an in-depth look at each company’s pricing structure.

Public

Public is all about keeping your trading fees as low as possible. Therefore, they offer commission-free trading on all stocks and ETFs on their app.

However, broker-assisted phone trades with Public do incur a $30 commission charge per trade.

Furthermore, Public charges fees for things like outgoing wire transfers and returned checks, but these fees are fairly common among all online brokerages.

Robinhood

Like Public, Robinhood prides itself on being a low-cost online brokerage. They offer commission-free trading on all US-listed stocks, ETFs, and options. Robinhood also has commission-free crypto trading, which is fairly unique in the industry. 

Additionally, while Robinhood Cash and Robinhood Instant accounts are both completely free to open and maintain, Robinhood Gold does have a $5 monthly fee. 

Finally, like Public, Robinhood charges small fees for things like paper statements and overnight check deliveries.

Robinhood Stocks and ETFs investing
Source: Robinhood

See Also: 12 Best IRA Accounts

Public vs. Robinhood: What We Like (Pros)

Both Public and Robinhood are feature-rich trading platforms. These are some of the many benefits that come with investing with either brokerage:

Public

  • Commission-free stock and ETF trades
  • No account minimums or maintenance fees
  • Easy-to-use mobile platform
  • Fractional shares investing for as little as $5
  • Access to a social network for advice and support
  • Superb in-app customer service
  • Great educational resources

Robinhood

  • Commission-free stock, ETF, and options trades
  • No commission fees on crypto trades
  • Ability to trade ADRs
  • Some accounts offer margins trading
  • Robinhood Gold offers in-depth market analysis
  • Instant deposit feature for quick access to your money
  • Fractional shares investing starting at $1
  • No account maintenance fees or minimums

Public vs Robinhood: What We Don’t Like (Cons)

As with any online brokerage, there are a few aspects of Public and Robinhood that didn’t quite impress. Here are some things to consider before investing with these brokerages:

Public

  • No mutual funds, bonds, options, or crypto trading
  • Doesn’t have a web-based platform
  • No access to foreign markets
  • Limited account types
  • Doesn’t offer margins trading
  • All of your trading activity is public

Robinhood

  • Doesn’t offer mutual funds or bonds trading
  • Crypto trading functionality is fairly limited
  • Unreliable platform in times of high market volatility
  • Customer support isn’t great
  • No option for retirement accounts
Robinhood Gold and Crypto
Source: Robinhood

See Also: How to Invest in ETFs: A Step-by-Step Guide

Public vs. Robinhood: Security

If you’re going to trust your hard-earned money to a brokerage, you need to know that they’ll keep it safe from bad actors. Thankfully, both Robinhood and Public have high-end security features to help protect your money. 

Public

With Public, your investments are protected by the SIPC for up to $500,000 should the brokerage fail. Furthermore, Public uses bank-grade security features like 128-bit encryption and multi-factor authentication to protect your assets from hackers.

Robinhood

As with Public, Robinhood is a member SIPC, so your investments with the brokerage are protected up to $500,000 per account. The brokerage also has multi-factor authentication and advanced security features to secure your money.

Public vs. Robinhood: Customer Support

Although we hope your investing experience goes off without a hitch, it’s always good to know that your brokerage has your back when an issue arises. Here’s what you can expect from both brokerages in terms of customer support:

Public

For a mobile-only online brokerage, Public has an impressive amount of customer service options available.

They offer email, phone, and live in-app chat support to all their account holders. Plus, clients always have access to the Public social community for questions about general investing or help with a feature in your account.

Robinhood

Robinhood only offers email-based customer support for account holders. While they do have a fairly extensive online help center with plenty of FAQs, the lack of phone and chat support with the platform isn’t ideal. 

So, if you want to be able to call your brokerage at any time, Robinhood’s limited customer service options are worth considering before opening an account.

Public vs. Robinhood: Platform and App

To place your trades and start investing your money with Robinhood and Public, you’ll have to log in to one of the brokerages’ apps or online platforms. Here’s what you can expect.

Public

Public is a mobile-first company, so all of the trading you do with the brokerage will be on the app. In fact, they don’t even have a web trading platform, so Public is best for folks that prefer to use their phones.

With Public, you have access to a social media-like platform where you can share your trades and discuss your thoughts on the market with other account holders. The app also allows you to place trades in real-time throughout market open hours.

Additionally, the Public app is your main portal to the brokerage’s educational tools, resources, and virtual events, where you can learn more about investing from experts in the industry.

Public Group Messaging
Source: Public

See Also: How to Invest in Bonds: Diversify Your Portfolio

Robinhood

Robinhood offers both an online trading platform and a mobile app. That being said, while most Robinhood users manage their trades on the app, it is nice to have access to an online platform for more complex trades.

In general, Robinhood’s trading platforms are fairly intuitive and user-friendly. The downside is that Robinhood’s app and online trading platform are also somewhat limited in terms of functionality for advanced traders.

For example, the stock analysis tools and charts available with Robinhood are fairly basic, so it’s not ideal if you’re looking to do copious amounts of research. Some users also find that it’s difficult to read charts on the Robinhood app. So, you may need to log on to the online platform when researching your investments.

Who Is Public For?

Public is an ideal trading platform for new investors that want access to a social network where they can discuss the latest trends in the financial markets.

The brokerage’s low costs and easy-to-use interface make it a popular option among younger investors, though people of all ages can benefit from the platform. Furthermore, the lack of account minimums makes Public a good starting point for people who want to place their first trades.

Like Robinhood, though, Public’s limited account options mean that it’s not a great option if you’re looking to save for retirement. Also, the firm only supports ETFs and stocks, so it’s not the right choice for folks who want access to a wide range of investment products.

In A Nutshell

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: Zero-commission stock and ETF trades
  • Promotion: Free stock

on Public’s website

Who Is Robinhood For?

Robinhood’s intuitive, low-cost trading platform makes it a nice choice for new investors that want to place their first trades and more experienced investors that want to keep costs at a minimum. 

Additionally, the fact that you can trade crypto commission-free on Robinhood makes it a solid option for folks that want to add crypto to their investment portfolio. However, Robinhood’s lack of retirement accounts and mutual fund investment options make it not so great for long-term investors. 

Finally, we have to mention that Robinhood has had several issues with its platform during periods of high market volatility, such as the 2021 GameStop short squeeze. So, if you’re concerned about the reliability of your trading platform, Robinhood might not be your top choice.

In A Nutshell

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: Zero-commission stock, ETF and per-leg options trading
  • Promotion: 1 free stock

on Robinhood’s website

Final Thoughts

As online brokerages, Robinhood and Public stand out from the pack when it comes to their user-friendliness and ease of use. However, each brokerage has clear advantages and disadvantages.

If you’re the type of person that wants the support of a social community as you start your investment portfolio, Public might be the better choice. Alternatively, if you’d prefer to have access to a wider range of investment products, like crypto and options trading, then Robinhood is a nice option.

At the end of the day, what’s important is that you find the brokerage that’s right for your needs. We hope our review helped you figure out whether Public or Robinhood is the best place to grow your investments.

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