Public.com vs. Acorns: Which is Better for New Investors?

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Public vs. Acorns

If you’re interested in finding an online brokerage firm, there are a number of options in the marketplace. Two popular choices include Acorns and Public.com. Both of these platforms cater to new investors, but which one is best for you?

Here we’ll make a Public.com vs. Acorns comparison to help you decide.

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Public.com vs. Acorns Summary

The main difference between Public.com and Acorns is that Public allows you to choose the specific stocks, funds, and cryptocurrencies you want to purchase. Acorns is an automated platform that offers rounds and a robo advisor service. Public.com is more appropriate for the self-directed investor who wants to be more hands-on with their investment portfolio. Acorns is more appropriate for the investor who prefers to be minimally involved.

Related reading: How to Get Free Stock

The Public.com Basics

Public

Public.com was originally Matador and has been operating since 2018. This is a mobile-first platform with a user-friendly interface and commission-free trades of stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). We feel it is the best investment app for beginners.

However, what makes Public stand apart from many other online trading platforms and investment apps is the collaboration features. The platform offers the opportunity to connect with other investors and benefit from the knowledge of more experienced platform users.

Public.com has been designed to encourage cooperation, and the community is remarkably supportive. You can log in at any time to not only check your trades, but also share strategies or chat with other stock market investors. There are no minimum investments to open your account and no fees for a basic account, making it ideal for new investors.

See our Public.com review to learn more.

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The Acorns Basics

Acorns

Acorns has been around a little longer than Public.com. It started in 2014 with the aim to make investing accessible for anyone. Since 2014, the platform has continued to develop and now offers checking and retirement accounts, in addition to taxable brokerage accounts. Acorns can help you to invest your spare change into ETF diversified portfolios, with a very beginner-friendly interface and no minimum balances.

Investment Options

Public.com provides access to more than 5,000 stocks and funds. If you don’t have a particular company in mind, you can search for companies using categories or Themes such as Green Power, Women in Charge, and Plant-Based Movement. This makes it easier to build a portfolio based on your interests, and it’s ideal for users who are looking for investment ideas. You can also purchase fractional shares if you want to access higher profile companies that have a high individual share price.

Within the app, you’ll find a detailed history of each stock with comments from other users and trends. You can also trade 30 different cryptocurrencies. They began offering crypto in 2021, and the number of cryptocurrencies supported has continued to rise.

Acorns has a much more limited investment range. However, this is intentional as Acorns wants to keep the platform as simple as possible. There are five pre-built portfolio choices including Conservative, Moderately Conservative, Moderate, Moderately Aggressive, and Aggressive.

These portfolios are low cost and are developed with input from the modern portfolio theory expert, Harry Markowitz. There are no individual stocks, but it does make Acorns attractive if you’re interested in auto investing and rebalancing. Acorns offers no options for purchasing individual stocks or ETFs, everything goes into one of the five portfolios.

How the Platforms Work

Public.com has been designed to be a user-friendly platform that’s highly accessible to new investors, while still offering the tools necessary for more experienced traders. The platform itself is intuitive and has easy-to-understand functionality.

It’s simple to search for stocks funds, and cryptocurrencies, or browse by categories. When you click on specific companies, it will bring up a screen of details. You’ll also see a news feed on the home page, which is where you can send messages, join discussions, follow others and build chat groups.

The Acorns platform is similarly easy to use. The five investment portfolios have been designed to offer maximum return potential within the user’s level of risk tolerance. But with so few choices, you won’t need to spend hours agonizing over your investing choices. The platform has automatic rebalancing as well.

During sign up, Acorns will suggest portfolio options based on the answers to a few questions to help you to maximize your potential returns according to your selected risk level.

At the heart of the Acorns platform is the Round-Ups feature, which rounds up any linked purchases to the next dollar. For example, if you purchase a coffee for $4.50, Acorns will round up the purchase to $5 by taking $0.50 and adding it to your account.

Once these spare change round-ups add up to $5 or more, the funds will be invested in your Acorns Invest account. There are also recurring investments that allow you to invest from $5 per day, week or month. However, you can also make one-time deposits. These funds are invested in 12 ETFs, which include stocks, bonds and other securities.

Public.com Features

As Public.com has been designed for new investors, it’s not particularly feature heavy. This is intentional because it keeps the interface clean and easy to use. There are minimal research and data tools, but some of the features of note include:

Social Investing

The Public.com platform allows you to connect with friends to see their investing activity and follow other investors. You can see where others are putting their money with a feed of comments and actions, as you would find on social media platforms such as Facebook.

You can also use the social investing aspect of the platform to get feedback on your strategies and ideas.

DRIP

Public also has an optional DRIP feature. DRIP or dividend reinvestment is a feature that is quite like compounding interest. With DRIP, you can choose to have dividends from your investments automatically reinvested for you. Platforms that do not have DRIP force you to take the dividends as cash.

Fractional Shares

Fractional shares are a great way to access high-priced stocks. There are many high-profile stocks that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars per share. This places these stocks out of reach for many new investors.

However, with fractional shares, you can buy slices of a share. Another benefit of fractional shares is that you can use all your available investment funds. So, if you have $100 to invest and the shares are $9.50 each, you can buy 10 whole shares and one fractional share.

Acorns Features

Acorns is a simple-to-use robo investing app, but there are some key features that allow it to stand out from other platforms.

Risk-Based Portfolio Options

Acorns groups its portfolio options in terms of risk tolerance. There are general, major purchase, long-term, short-term, and children portfolio options, but you can also use investment strategies according to whether you want to be conservative or aggressive and different points in between.

An aggressive portfolio increases the potential rewards and the risk, while conservative portfolios offer lower potential rewards but with less risk.

Acorns Early

If you have a child and want to open a custodial investment account, you can use Acorns. There are no extra costs for this type of account and you can use a monthly or weekly recurring deposit. The Acorns Early feature sets up an investing foundation for your child, but they are not restricted due to being set up as a UTMA/UGTA account. Once your child reaches majority, they can transfer their Acorns account easily to continue investing.

Acorns Later

Investing for retirement presents unique challenges and Acorns Later provides features to suit this purpose for a low fee of $3 per month. Acorns Later recommends portfolio and IRAs to meet your investment objectives with Traditional IRA, Roth IRA and SEP IRA investment vehicles available.

Acorns Spend

Acorns Spend provides you with a checking account and metal debit card, so you can channel all your Acorns-related financial activity in one place. This is becoming a more common feature with trading platforms (M1 Finance and Stash for example), but it’s a nice addition to Acorns.

You can set up a direct deposit and access an ATM network with over 55,000 machines and not incur any fees. Acorns Spend also has Smart Deposit, a built-in feature that allows you to automatically invest a portion of your income.

Acorns Earn

Acorns Earn is a bonus feature that allows you to earn cash when you shop using your Acorns-linked debit or credit card with one of the 350+ Acorns partners. The list of partners includes Walmart, Apple and other popular brands.

You can also use this feature in tandem with your rewards credit card. So, if you have a credit card that offers 2% cash back with Walmart, if you link this card to Acorns Found, you’ll get an extra 5% making your bonus total 7%.

Pricing and Fees

Public.com has no account maintenance fees or account minimums. Stock trades and ETF trades are commission-free. Crypto trades are subject to a 1-2% markup, which slightly increases the price you’ll pay (this is comparable to the fees for trading crypto on other similar platforms).

Acorns has several account tiers that incur different fees.

  • Acorns Core: This is the basic Acorns investing platform that costs $1 per month.
  • Acorns Core, Later and Spend: This tier is charged at $3 per month, but it does allow you to open a checking account and invest in a retirement account.
  • Acorns Core, Later, Spend and Early: This costs $5 a month, but it adds custodial investment accounts for your children with no extra costs.

There is a $5 minimum with Acorns, but it does mean that you can open your account and get started with a low minimum investment.

A fee of $5 per month may not sound like a lot, but for accounts with smaller balances, the fees will eat away at your savings. For accounts with larger balances, the flat monthly fee works out better.

Platform Security

Both Public.com and Acorns use industry-standard security. Both platforms are SIPC members, providing account protection for up to $500,000. Additionally, Acorns checking accounts have FDIC insurance for up to $250,000. Public.com also has additional coverage to supplement its protection due to the insurance offered via Public’s clearing firm, Apex.

Pros and Cons

Of course, no investment platform is perfect and there are both positives and potential negatives associated with both Public.com and Acorns.

Public Pros

  • Investment Options: Investors have far more options with Public.com as compared to Acorns.
  • Fractional Shares: Price can often be a barrier to entry for many new investors, but fractional shares allow you to purchase slices of higher value shares or invest a full dollar amount rather than leaving money sitting in your investment account.
  • Social Platform Features: Public has a social aspect with activity feed and chat functions, so you can follow what more experienced traders are doing and get feedback on your investment strategies.
  • Dividend Reinvestment: Public offers DRIP to take full advantage of compounding your investment potential.
  • No Account Fees: While Acorns charges a monthly fee, Public.com does not.

Public Cons:

  • Limited Account Options: Public.com has minimal account types with an individual brokerage account being the only option currently.
  • Limited Research Tools: While Public.com does provide some basic company information, this research is quite minimal. If you do want more indepth research, you may need to consider third-party tools like StockRover.
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Acorns Pros

  • Consistent Investing: Acorns has a spare change Round-Up feature that ensures that you consistently invest. Even smaller amounts can add up to a decent investment fund over time.
  • Tiers: Acorns has different subscription tiers, so you can choose the one best suited to your investment and financial needs.
  • Family Investing: Acorns offers custodial accounts if you want to set up an account for your children.
  • Cash Back: Acorns has a list of partners that allow you to earn cash back via the Found Money feature.

Acorns Cons:

  • Limited Portfolios: Acorns has very limited portfolio options. You’ll need to choose a portfolio according to one of five risk levels.
  • No Option for Manually Choosing Investments: All of your investing through Acorns is automated. You can choose to contribute at any time, but you can’t choose particular stocks or ETFs that you want to purchase.
  • Relatively Expensive for Small Accounts: If you only have a very limited investing fund, even the base subscription tier could eat into your potential investments.

Public vs. Acorns: Final Thoughts

Both Public.com and Acorns are well regarded platforms offering some excellent benefits. While these platforms are both designed for ease of use, particularly for newbies, they’re likely to appeal to different investors.

If the idea of self-directed investing and choosing specific stocks, crypto, and ETFs appeals to you, Public.com is the better option for you. You can take much more control over what you invest in and get input from more experienced investors via the social features of the platform.

Public.com will also be the better choice if you want to minimize your fees or invest in crypto.

On the other hand, if you want to establish a more “set it and forget it” investment approach, Acorns is a great option. If you have concerns that you may struggle to set aside money for investing, the Acorns’ Round-Up feature will be beneficial for you. You can use Acorns to put your spare change into investments.

So the Public.com vs Acorns comparison really comes down to whether you prefer a hands-on or hands-off approach to investing.

Join Public to get up to $300 of free stock when you make a deposit.*



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