Public.com vs. M1 Finance: Head-to-Head Comparison

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Public vs. M1 Finance

If you’re considering online trading or want to move to a new platform, there are two established platforms you may want to look at. Both Public.com and M1 Finance are well-established and have a lot to offer. But, which one is best for you? Here we’ll look at Public.com vs M1 Finance in a head-to-head comparison.

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Public.com vs. M1 Finance Overview

Before we get into the specific details of each platform, here’s a quick summary that may help you to see which option is best suited for your needs:

  • Both platforms offer commission-free trades of stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
  • Both platforms allow users to buy and sell fractional shares.
  • Public.com is more of a straightforward trading app, while M1 Finance also offers banking and lending functionality.
  • Public.com charges no account maintenance fees and allows investors to start with as little as $1.
  • A basic M1 Finance account is free, but they also offer M1 Plus, which includes some of the banking and lending features, for a fee of $125 per year.
  • Both platforms provide an excellent user experience.
  • Public.com includes social features that allow you to connect with friends or other investors in the community. M1 Finance does not include social features.
  • M1 Finance helps you to automate your investing through the use of “pies” that determine how your portfolio is allocated. You can use one of their pies that have been created by experts, or you can create your own custom pie.
  • Public.com provides categorized investing Themes that make it easy to find investments that appeal to you.
  • Trades on M1 Finance are only executed once per day, or twice per day for M1 Plus users. This isn’t ideal for active traders but may be fine for most long-term investors.
  • M1 Finance offers retirement accounts (Traditional, Roth, and SEP IRAs), while Public.com currently does not.

Public.com Overview

While originally called Matador, Public.com has been operating since 2018. It is a mobile app based trading platform with a user-friendly interface and commission-free trading. However, where Public stands apart from other trading platforms is that it offers robust social features. The platform is not merely designed to trade stock, you can connect with friends and experts, share advice, and review strategies to help you to improve your investing skills and knowledge.

There are no account minimums and account fees to worry about, making it ideal for newbies or those looking to cut the costs of their trades. Public.com also offers fractional shares, which is another feature that’s ideal for new investors. In 2021, Public.com began offering cryptocurrency trading in addition to stocks and funds.

Read our Public.com review for more details.

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Public.com offers fractional shares and the ability to start investing with any amount. 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 offered by Apex Crypto LLC. See Public.com/disclosures/

M1 Finance Overview

M1 Finance is a bit different. It bills itself as a Finance Super App with the aim of being a one-stop-shop for personal finance. The main focus of the platform is to help investors with products in three categories; Borrowing, Spending, and Investing.

The philosophy of M1 Finance is to make investing more accessible to the average person with the belief that anyone can reach their goals via low-cost, long-term investments. M1 Finance is specifically tailored to the long-term investor.

M1 Finance is free for its basic account features, but you can optionally upgrade to the premium M1 Plus package. This costs $125 per year, but it does offer additional perks that may make it worth it for you. There’s a $100 minimum for initial brokerage account investments and a $500 minimum for retirement accounts.

Read our M1 Finance review for more details.

Free Portfolio Management
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M1 Finance makes it easy to manage your investments. Choose from a wide variety of professionally-created "pies" (portfolio allocations) or create your own. Contribute to your account and M1 Finance automatically invests based on your selections.

Features:
  • Free alternative to robo advisors
  • Automated investing
  • Easily view and manage your portfolio
  • Ideal for long-term investors
  • Commission-free trades

Investment Options

Public.com offers access to approximately 4,000 stocks and ETFs, but the platform also supports crypto (managed by Apex Crypto, a leader in the industry). You can purchase fractional shares, which is a fantastic feature for those who are just getting started and cannot afford to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for just one share of a large brand.

The M1 platform investment options are based around “pies”. There are over 80 pre-built pies (pre-built portfolios) on the platform that align with various strategies such as passive investing, socially conscious options, and hedge fund mimics. However, you can also create custom pies by choosing your own holdings from a list of individual stocks, ETFs, socially responsible ESG options, and REITs.

This is quite an innovative approach to investing, as you can tailor your portfolio according to your requirements and goals. You can use a pre-built pie, add items to an existing pie or create a completely new one. Essentially, a free M1 Finance account can serve as an alternative to more costly robo advisors.

Winner: Tie. Public.com offers crypto and M1 offers a selection of pre-built pies. We consider this even.

Related reading: How to Get Free Stock

Account Types

The only account type currently available from Public.com is an individual taxable brokerage account. There are no retirement accounts, joint accounts, or other account options.

M1 Finance has far more options, but not all of the account types are available with a free M1 Finance account. You can use either the Basic (free) or Plus membership plans for trading, but the perks vary according to your tier. For example, M1 Plus members can access a second trading window in the afternoon, while Basic account holders only have one trading window per day.

Additionally, M1 Finance offers different account types. Aside from traditional brokerage accounts, you can also open a retirement account (Roth, traditional, and SEP IRAs) and M1 Plus users are able to open custodial accounts for minors.

Winner: M1 Finance

Pricing and Fees

Public.com charges no commissions on stock and ETF trades. There are also no account minimums, maintenance fees or costs to open an account. However, you may incur some miscellaneous expenses for things like wire transfers, returned checks, or optional paper statements.

M1 Finance also has no trading fees or portfolio management costs. However, you will incur a subscription fee if you opt for the M1 Plus membership. This costs $125 per year, but it does provide perks over and above the Basic membership.

Winner: Public.com

Community and Social Features

This is an area where Public.com distinguishes itself, as one of its most significant advantages is the social aspect. The Public investing app has collaborative features that allow you to share information and knowledge with other platform users. There are main and stock specific feeds that allow you to connect with other investors. You can see what investments others are making, network, get new ideas, and seek feedback on your investment strategies and ideas. This encourages newbies and those with limited experience to benefit from the experience of established investors. And for those who are experienced, it allows you to connect with other active investors and traders.

On the other hand, M1 Finance does not have any social engagement. While this platform has pre-built portfolios, you are mostly going it alone.

Winner: Public.com

Ease of Use

Since Public.com is geared towards the less experienced investor, it stands to reason that it would have a very user-friendly interface. However, even experienced traders will appreciate the excellent design and user experience.

Everything can be performed on the mobile app, which allows you to log in and fund your account, search for individual investments, and view other users’ portfolios.

The Public app itself is very easy to navigate with the stocks organized into themes. This makes it easier to search the stock market, as you can just choose a category and then browse the available stocks. When you click on one, you can see company information including its history, trends, and any comments from the community.

The home page also features a news feed containing ideas and trade insights. You can click on account profiles to see the user’s recent posts. Through the app, you can join discussions, direct message other users, or even build a chat group. You can follow others and watch the financial moves they make.

M1 Finance is also quite straightforward to use. Whether you choose to manage your account through a desktop browser or the mobile app, both layouts have a clean design that’s simple to navigate. There are tabs to access your activity and holdings, and easy-to-find buttons to buy, sell or rebalance. The workflow on the app is almost identical to the desktop version, which ensures that you have an excellent user experience regardless of your device.

Although both offer an excellent user experience, Public.com is a bit more simple and straightforward since M1 includes banking and lending functionality in addition to investing.

Winner: Public.com

Data and Research

While Public.com is very easy to use, the amount of data and research details provided in the app are limited. It offers basic data to help you to make an investment decision, but if you’re looking for in-depth analysis or graphs, you may need to use a separate platform like Stock Rover.

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Features:
  • Research more than 8,500 stocks
  • Details on 4,000 ETFs and 40,000 mutual funds
  • Portfolio management (syncs with your brokerage)
  • Detailed portfolio performance
  • Powerful charting and screening
  • Fully customizable

However, Public.com’s investment themes are incredibly helpful to assist in participating in larger trends. These collections of stocks all have a similar underlying theme. You can pick a theme such as fighting disease, women in charge, plant-based movement, or media and then browse the offerings in the collection to see if the companies match your investment criteria.

As we discussed above, the M1 Finance portfolio management is executed through pies. Each pie is assembled into a category with an investment goal, such as income, retirement, or general investing. Once you set a pie, M1 will automatically invest whenever you deposit money to your account. This means that new funds are allocated to parts of your portfolio that are underweighted compared to the initial setup. You can also trigger a rebalance at any time.

Although the pre-built pies require little research, you can build your own portfolio or add stocks to a pre-built pie if you prefer. For this reason, there’s a research tab which allows you to access company data and screen stocks according to a variety of parameters. You can also click on the ticker symbol to go straight to buying a specific stock. 

M1 Finance has graphs and other research tools, which gives it a slight edge over Public.com in terms of data and research.

Winner: M1 Finance

Other Platform Features

We’ve touched on the social aspects of Public, but M1 Finance has some other platform features that are worth considering. These include:

Rebalancing Tools

M1 Finance has an automatic rebalancing tool to ensure that your investments remain at your designated thresholds. For example, if you designate that Amazon would be 10% of your portfolio, this feature will ensure it remains at this level.

There is also a one-click rebalancing feature that you can perform at any time. The automatic rebalancing also reinvests any dividends.

M1 Borrow

This is a feature that is not offered by Public.com and it is essentially a line of credit against your portfolio. If you have $10,000+ invested with the platform, you can qualify for a line of credit for up to 35% of the value of your portfolio.

Since the debt is secured with your portfolio acting as collateral, you can qualify for a relatively low interest rate, and M1 Plus customers get a preferential rate. However, this feature is only available if you have a taxable account, IRA accounts do not qualify.

It’s important to be aware of the potential consequences of taking out a loan with your portfolio as collateral. Obviously, you don’t want to default on the loan and lose part of your portfolio to cover it.

M1 Spend

This is another area where M1 Finance stands apart from many other investment platforms, as you can also use this platform for your day-to-day finances. M1 Spend is a checking account and debit card. You can use the account for direct debits, money transfers, and other day-to-day banking tasks. The account has no minimum balance, offers ATM fee waivers, and 1% cashback for M1 Plus members on their debit card purchases.

You can set up a direct deposit into your account and allocate funds into your investment directly. Additionally, M1 Plus users receive an above-average interest rate on any cash held in their account.

The Owner’s Rewards Credit Card

M1 recently released a credit card for its platform users. This funky metal credit card offers 1.5% cashback on your purchases. However, it differs from a standard reward credit card in that there is a list of over 70 participating companies and if you own stock in these companies, you can earn up to 10% cashback when you make purchases from these brands.

The list of companies includes Netflix, Walmart, Home Depot, and Amazon. The rewards can vary at 2.5%, 5%, and 10%. For example, if you own a share or fractional share of Amazon, when you make Amazon purchases using your card, you’ll get 2.5% cashback. There’s also the option to redeem your cashback as auto-reinvested stock, so you can passively build your investment fund.

The card is available to all M1 members, but if you are a basic member, there is a $95 annual fee. The annual fee is waived for M1 Plus members.

Smart Transfers

This feature is available to Plus customers. Essentially, this allows you to set strategic rules to allocate excess cash towards maxing out your annual IRA contributions, investing with one of your M1 brokerage accounts, or into your Spending account. You can create the rules to accordingly transfer funds automatically.

Public.com Advantages

Here are some of the most significant ways that Public.com stands out.

  • Straightforward Trading App: If you’re looking for a basic app to make trades, Public.com is the more ideal choice.
  • Better for Active Traders: One of the major disadvantages of M1 Finance is that all of the trades are placed at the same time each day. If you’re an active trader, you’ll want the ability to buy or sell at any time the market is open, which is possible with Public.com.
  • Access to Cryptocurrencies: This is a clear advantage over M1 Finance, and lots of other free stock trading platforms. Crypto is a popular investment option to diversify your portfolio, so it’s nice that cryptocurrencies are supported by Public.com.
  • Fractional Share Investing: This is not unique to Public.com, as it’s also possible with M1 Finance. However, it’s one of the platform’s greatest strengths. Price is often a significant barrier to entry, particularly when you want to invest in larger companies such as Amazon or Google. These shares can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars per share, so if you have a limited investment budget, being able to buy slices of these shares is a distinct advantage.
  • Follow Other Investors: Public.com is quite unique as a trading platform thanks to its social features. You can follow other investors, chat with users and even get input about your ideas and strategies.
  • Simple Interface: All the Public.com trading activity takes place on its app, which has a simple and clear interface that makes it easy even if you’re a complete novice.
  • Investment Themes: If you’re looking for investment ideas, you’ll love the Themes provided by Public.com. This is a great way to quickly find investment opportunities that appeal to you.

M1 Finance Advantages

And here are the ways that M1 Finance stands out.

  • Pre-Built Portfolios: M1 Finance has more than 80 pre-built pies that are arranged into categories, making it easy to find ones that align with your personal investing goals.
  • Automated Investing: Thanks to the pie concept, you can completely automate your investing with M1 Finance.
  • Limited Fees: Unless you upgrade to an M1 Plus subscription, M1 allows you to trade for free. However, if you want to take advantage of the other features and perks, you may find the $125 annual subscription to be worth the cost.
  • Alternative to Robo Advisors: Although M1 Finance is not a robo advisor, the combination of pre-built pies and automated investing make it a legit alternative to a more costly robo advisor.
  • Checking Account: The M1 Spend account acts as a regular checking account. It includes direct debit facilities and a debit card, so you can easily align your everyday finances and investing activities.
  • Lending Capacity: You can use your portfolio as collateral for M1 Borrow. Providing your portfolio is worth over $10,000, you can borrow at reasonable rates with no credit check.

Final Thoughts on the Public.com vs. M1 Finance Comparison

Although both Public.com and M1 Finance are effective at helping investors to make trades to match their goals, there are key differences and a few points to consider when you’re deciding which one is the better choice for you.

Both platforms offer fractional shares, which removes the share price barrier. Both platforms offer free trades and outstanding functionality.

Public.com is our favorite free trading platform. While it may not have all the features and benefits of M1, you don’t need to worry about any subscription fees or charges. The platform is designed for more active traders who want to engage socially. If you like the idea of connecting with other investors and sharing strategies, Public.com is likely to appeal to you.

M1 Finance is better suited to the long-term, passive investor. The pre-built pies allow you to invest in a balanced portfolio without needing to do comprehensive research on each individual stock. You can also enjoy auto rebalancing.

Other factors to consider are that you’ll need $100 to open an M1 account, while Public.com has no minimums. Additionally, while M1 offers retirement accounts, these are not currently available through Public.com. However, Public does support cryptocurrencies, and M1 does not.

So, in the Public.com vs M1 Finance comparison, you’ll need to think about what you need in your investing platform. Are you looking to get help with your investment strategies, or would you prefer a greater degree of automation? Do you need a basic investment account, or are you looking for a more comprehensive platform that also includes accounts for retirement and your day-to-day finances?

The answers to these questions will help you to determine which is best for you, but if you’re still undecided, with no trading fees, there’s nothing stopping you from giving both platforms a try.

*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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