Public.com vs. Ally Invest: Comparison of Free Trading Platforms

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Public.com vs. Ally Invest

If you’re looking to start investing, you’ll find that there are lots of low-fee or fee-free trading platforms in the marketplace. Two fairly new entries into the market are Public.com and Ally Invest. These platforms are designed for newbie investors, yet have sufficient features for the more experienced investor who is looking to save on fees and charges. But, how do they compare? In this Public.com vs Ally Invest comparison, we’ll examine both these platforms in more detail to help you make an informed decision.

Related reading: How to Get Free Stocks

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

Public.com Overview

Public.com was originally called Matador and has been around since 2018. This is a mobile app-based stock trading platform (desktop access is also available) that offers commission-free trades and has a user-friendly interface that’s ideal for new investors.

What makes Public.com quite unique in the niche is that the platform has a social element. You can connect and follow friends and experts within the Public community, sharing advice and reviewing strategies to improve your investing skillset.

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Public.com offers fractional shares so anyone can start investing. You'll love the social aspect that makes it possible to connect with other investors. Get a free stock slice worth up to $300 when you open an account through our link.

Features:
  • Commission-free trades of stocks and ETFs
  • Buy and sell 27 different cryptocurrencies
  • Fractional shares
  • Easy to use and beginner-friendly
  • Connect with a supportive community of investors
  • "Themes" help you to find investments that interest you
Offer valid for U.S. residents 18+ and subject to account approval. This is not a recommendation. You can lose money with any investment. Open To The Public Investing is a member of FINRA & SIPC. Regulatory and firm fees apply. New customers receive free stock with value $3-300; 0.3% receive the max value. Cryptocurrency trading provided by Apex Crypto LLC (NMLS ID 1828849). Apex Crypto is licensed to engage in virtual currency business activity by the New York State Department of Financial Services. See Public.com/disclosures/

Ally Invest Overview

Ally Invest is the brokerage arm of Ally Bank. Ally Bank was established with the aim of streamlining banking services to make them more readily available to most consumers. This premise has carried over into Ally Invest. This is a solid trading platform with low minimums and low costs. There is zero commission on trades of stocks and ETFs with low or no account fees.

Ally Invest also offers specialized options analysis features and tools including dynamic profitability graphs and probability calculators that can assist the more experienced investor.

Investment Options

Public.com has a limited variety of investment options via a taxable individual brokerage account. Unlike Ally Invest, you currently cannot open a joint account. Public.com supports exchange-traded funds (ETFs), stocks, and cryptocurrencies, and unlike Ally, you can purchase fractional shares.

While this is not unique to Public.com, offering fractional shares is a fantastic feature, particularly for new investors or investors who are looking to diversify and access shares of larger companies such as Google or Amazon. The large price of these shares typically creates a massive barrier to entry for many investors.

Ally has a wider selection of investment options. You can use this platform to trade in ETFs, mutual funds, options, and fixed income products that include CDs, US Treasuries, and bonds. There is also a dedicated platform that offers foreign exchange trading in over 50 currency pairs. The limitation in Ally’s investment options is that it does not offer cryptocurrencies, futures, or fractional shares.

Fees

The Public.com platform has no commission or trading fees on ETFs and stocks. There are no account maintenance fees, no fees to open or close an account, and no account minimums. However, there are some miscellaneous fees that some users will occur in specific situations, including:

  • Paper statements: $5
  • Outgoing domestic wire transfers: $25
  • Returned checks: $30

Ally Invest’s fee structure is a little more complex. While they offer zero commission stock and ETF trading, and no commissions on foreign exchange, there are other fees including:

  • Options: $0.50 per contract and a $0.50 fee to close a low value options position.
  • Mutual funds: $9.95 per each no load mutual fund trade
  • OTCBB: $4.95 plus $0.01 per share with a maximum commission per order of 5% of the trade value.
  • Transfer Account Out: $50
  • Checks: $5 sending fee
  • Domestic outgoing wire transfer: $30
  • Live broker trading: $20 for broker assisted trades, but this is not typically applied.
  • Robo Managed Accounts: Minimum $100 investment with no management fee if 30% allocated to cash on cash enhanced portfolios and a 0.30% fee for annual management for other robo created portfolios.

As you can see, while Ally Invest does offer more investment options, this is reflected in its fee structure.

Community and Social Features

This area is where Public.com really stands apart from the competition, even Ally Invest. One of the main advantages of Public.com is that it has a social community. There is a collaborative feature that allows you to share knowledge and learn from other Public users.

You’ll find a main feed and stock-specific feeds where you can connect with other investors to see what investments they’re making and get feedback on your investment ideas and strategies. You can join a group to network with other investors and get new ideas, benefitting from more experienced investors’ wisdom.

Ally Invest is a little more conventional. It’s not particularly social, as you can access basic headline information from MT Newswires. This is quite generic and there’s no search or filter function. So, while it does offer helpful market information that’s likely to be sufficient for many investors, it does lack the collaborative atmosphere of Public.com.

Ease of Use

Public.com has a remarkably user-friendly platform. While you can log in and view details via the site, the main functions are conducted via the easy-to-navigate app. When you log in and fund your Public.com account, the app makes it very easy to search for ETFs and stocks, view portfolios from other users, and begin your investing journey.

You can search for new stocks or browse the various investment categories. There are over 5,000 stocks organized into themes, so you can simply choose a category and browse the stocks. If you click on a company, you’ll also see information including company history, trends, and comments.

There is also a news feed of trade insights and ideas on the home page. If you want to view users’ recent posts, you can simply click on their account profiles. The app also allows you to take advantage of the social aspect of the platform. You can join discussions, build your own chat group, or direct message people. You can also follow other investors and watch what financial moves they make.

Ally Invest has more comprehensive functionality, but the technology does feel a little dated. On the primary home screen, you can see all your related accounts across the entire Ally Platform. This means that you’ll see any bank accounts, loans, and managed accounts. You can then click through to the Ally Invest page.

From this point, you can launch Ally Invest Live, which offers streaming quotes and has a responsive feel with quick refreshing of the pages. There are also intuitive menus, with easy-to-use sub-menus. However, there will be times when the top menu bar disappears, which can feel a little disorienting.

This platform does offer user customization options so you can change the feel and look of the interface. Both the Ally Invest site and mobile app have a modern design, but the primary website has all the features and functions. However, if you want to explore charting, you’ll find it is better on Live rather than the mobile platform or website.

This does compromise the user experience somewhat. You may need to use different platforms for different things.

Data and Research

Since Public.com is geared towards newer investors, it does lack a little in the data and research area. It does offer sufficient basic data for investors to make an educated decision. However, one nice feature is the investment themes.

The Public.com investment themes allow you to participate in larger trends. These are collections of stocks and funds based on a similar underlying theme, such as travel and leisure, home and garden, women in charge, food delivery, the plant-based movement, fighting disease, and media. This can make investing a little simpler for those lacking investment experience. You can simply pick and theme and browse the offerings to see if you find companies that appeal to you and match your investing criteria.

Ally Invest has a far more comprehensive data and research selection. There are a number of screeners including a stock screener on the primary website that has numerous filters including sectors, price performance, exchanges, fundamentals, and valuation. You can also access fundamental information including earnings per share, accounting ratios, dividends, and FactSet consensus analyst ratings. There’s also an ETF and Mutual Fund screener, options screener, and fixed income screener.

Another area where Ally Invest differs from Public.com is that it offers charting. The charts are limited on the app, where you can’t draw trend lines or see open orders or positions on the charts. On the website, there are more charting options, which allow a customized timeframe and comparisons. However, the best charting is on the Ally Invest Live platform, where you can readjust the chart, see more studies and enjoy better drawing tools.

Ally Invest also has a strategy builder which allows backtesting.

Public.com Advantages

  • Access to Cryptocurrencies: This is a distinct advantage for Public.com over Ally Invest and many other fee free trading platforms. Crypto is becoming a highly popular investment option, so it is nice that this is available through Public.com.
  • Fractional Shares: While this is not unique to Public.com, it’s one of the platform’s greatest strengths. Price is often a massive barrier to entry, particularly when you want to diversify into larger companies such as Amazon or Google. Since these shares can run to thousands of dollars per share, if you have a limited investing budget, being able to buy slices of these shares is a great advantage.
  • Follow Other Investors: This is another massive advantage of this platform, as the social aspect of Public.com allows you to follow other investors and get input about your strategies.
  • No PFOF: Unlike Ally Invest, which has Payment for Order Flow as an income stream, Public does not rely on PFOF. PFOF is controversial as there’s an argument that the customer interests may be compromised by the financial interests of the platform. Instead, Public.com has an optional tipping feature.
  • Simple Interface: All trading activity for Public.com takes place on the app, which has a clear and easy to use interface that makes it simple even for complete novices.

Ally Invest Advantages

  • Linked to Competitive Bank: Ally Invest is part of Ally Bank, which offers competitive fees, commissions and minimums. This is a great advantage if you want to streamline your finances and keep everything under one roof.
  • Offers Self-Directed Accounts: The Ally self-directed accounts integrate with other Ally products, so you can see a snapshot of your financial condition in one location.
  • Commission-Free Foreign Exchange Trading: You can trade in 52 currency pairs through a dedicated trading platform.
  • Interest on Cash Balances: It’s not unusual for traders to have cash in an investment account. You may be waiting to make your next trade or have funds left over when you buy x number of shares. So, one advantage of Ally Invest is that you can earn 0.50% on cash balances in your investment account up to $250,000.

Final Thoughts on Public.com vs. Ally Invest

Both these platforms are solid and offer a low-cost way to manage your investments. However, there are key differences that will determine which one is the better choice for you.

Ally Invest has far more functionality and options compared to Public.com, but it’s a little trickier to use. The user experience varies according to which interface you’re using, with some offering greater functionality in some areas and weaker in others. Additionally, the greater investment option selection is accompanied by a more complicated fee structure, once you stray away from basic stock and ETF trading.

Public.com is a bit more limited, but it’s geared towards newer investors. The collaborative community is a great resource for those who want to benefit from the experience of other investors. You can also enjoy a cleaner interface that is highly intuitive and easy to use and fractional shares which reduce the financial barrier to entry.

So, unless you’re planning on moving away from stocks, crypto, and ETFs, Public.com is likely to be the better platform for you.

*Offer valid for U.S. residents 18+ and subject to account approval. This is not a recommendation. You can lose money with any investment. Open To The Public Investing is a member of FINRA & SIPC. Regulatory and firm fees apply. New customers receive free stock with value $3-300; 0.3% receive the max value. Cryptocurrency trading offered by Apex Crypto LLC. See Public.com/disclosures/

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