Public.com vs. TD Ameritrade: Head-to-Head Comparison

Vital Dollar may receive compensation from companies, products, and services covered on our site. For more details, please read about how we make money.

Public.com vs TD Ameritrade

In the past, brokerage fees made investing in stocks and funds an impossibility for the modest investor. However, with the advent of online brokerages, the financial services industry has been revolutionized. There has been a flood of new online brokers that offer their services to beginners or more experienced investors.

Beginners can find it intimidating to choose an investment platform among the multitude of options. Here we’ll look at two of the most popular in our Public.com vs TD Ameritrade comparison. We’ll examine the fees, features, and advantages of each platform to help you decide if either is a good fit for you.

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 has been operating since 2018 as an app-based brokerage platform. The overall aim of Public is to provide access for the masses to investments rather than investments being only available to the elite.

It is Public.com’s mission to make investing more social, with a collaborative platform that allows investors to share their knowledge for mutual benefit. This means that Public.com is quite unique, as it’s not just an online broker, but also a platform for individuals seeking to boost their financial well-being. The Platform has a main feed and stock-specific channels where you can view the investments top investors and friends are making, and interact with other users.

Learn more in our Public.com review.

Top Pick
Get Free Stock from Public.com Get Free Stock from Public.com

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/

TD Ameritrade Overview

TD Ameritrade is an online brokerage that offers trading services. The platform has the aim of helping its users to become financially free with high-quality trading services and features that allow it to stand apart from the competition.

Investment Options

Public.com offers a decent selection of investment options, with the main gaps being joint and retirement accounts, which are currently not available. You can buy and sell stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and cryptocurrency. You can also purchase fractional shares, so you can buy slices of specific stocks rather than needing to buy full shares. You can invest fractional shares, which is a great option for smaller investors looking into getting into pricier stocks such as Amazon or to diversify among many securities.

TD Ameritrade does offer a greater selection of investments including stocks, ETFs, options, and futures. You can access mutual funds, foreign exchange, penny stocks, single and multi-leg option contracts. However, unlike Public.com, TD Ameritrade does not offer fractional shares, which may place some stocks out of your financial reach unless you have a larger investment fund.

Fees

One of the attractive features of these platforms is their low fee structures. Public.com is completely free to use with no trading fees or stock and fund commissions. There are no fees to open or close an account, no account minimums, and no account maintenance fees. However, there are some fees that some users may encounter. These include:

  • Paper statements: $5
  • Domestic outgoing wire transfers: $25
  • Returned checks: $30
  • Outgoing ACAT: $75

TD Ameritrade is also looking to join the zero-fee trading niche, but there are some fees that will impact your day-to-day activities. While there is no commission for online ETF or equity trades, there are other fees, including:

  • $6.95 commission on OTCBB trades per transaction.
  • Per contract commission at $0.65.
  • Order for 50 options contracts: $32.50
  • Mutual fund commission (outside the No Transaction Fee program): $49.99
  • Futures transaction fees: $2.25 per contract
  • Outgoing transfers $25
  • Account transfer $75
  • Paper statements: $2 handling fee
  • Live broker fee: $25 per trade.

Community and Social Features

This is one area in the Public.com vs TD Ameritrade comparison where Public easily comes out ahead. As we touched on above, the community is one of the main areas where Public.com distinguishes itself from other online trading platforms.

Public.com is a collaborative platform where you can share knowledge with other investors. There is a main feed and stock-specific feeds that allow you to connect with others to see what investments they are making. You can join groups and discuss your strategies and get feedback. Networking with others to get new ideas and learn from other investors’ experiences.

This is not something offered by TD Ameritrade. Although you can use the app to access the platform, there is no social aspect to TD Ameritrade.

Ease of Use

Public.com is an app-based platform, so for buying and selling assets, you need to use the app, which is available for iOS and Android devices. You can sign in online to view information, but all trading currently takes place through the app.

The app itself has an excellent workflow, with a simple and easy-to-use interface. While it may be a little basic for the most experienced traders, it’s not at all intimidating for newer investors. For example, you cannot customize your trade experience, stage multiple orders, or trade from the chart. However, to buy or sell, you simply need to search for the appropriate fund or stock and select “Invest”. There is then an option to designate the number of shares or dollar amount. This could not be easier. So, you don’t need to get to grips with a complex interface as you’re learning about trading.

TD Ameritrade also has a straightforward web platform. You can log in to set orders via the ticker symbol. You can also screen stocks on the web platform, creating your own screens with parameters such as industry, sector, and market capitalization. Although these screeners are a great feature, it does make the layout a little confusing for beginners.

There is also a TD Ameritrade app, which has fewer features and makes it easier to use. The mobile app does not support a capability to draw on charts, but you can trade from a chart or using the large green “trade” button. This creates a simplified layout, which is not as daunting as the web platform.

Trading Technology

One of the main criticisms of commission-free online brokerages is their trading technology. Without commission fees, brokerages tend to rely on other forms of revenue including PFOF (payment for order flow). This is a much-debated practice where a brokerage receives rebates on trades routed through particular clearing firms. This can create misalignment between the brokerage’s potential for profit and the customer’s interests.

As of February 2021, payment for order flow is no longer used by Public.com as a revenue generator. Public.com has introduced an optional tipping feature to compensate for this loss of income. You can choose to add a tip when you make a trade to support the platform. However, this is purely optional, as you can continue to trade without commission or tips.

Each time you submit an order, Public.com sends the order to a market center to be fulfilled. Public.com uses reasonable diligence to choose one of dozens of market centers that will execute the order with the most favorable available terms. While there’s a focus on the best price, there are other factors taken into account including the speed of execution.

Public.com does not support backtesting or automated trading, but this trading technology is not necessary as Public.com has a focus on bringing passive income to socially focused newer investors.

TD Ameritrade has a different focus for its trading technology. The top priority for TD Ameritrade is fast execution and efficient order routing. This is the process by which orders go from end-users to an exchange. The method by which orders are routed will determine the chances of getting the best price at the time the trade orders are placed.

TD Ameritrade has proprietary order routing technology and its clients can direct route orders to specific exchanges. Most TD Ameritrade orders are spray routed, which provides a trade execution average time of 0.05 seconds. This platform also offers backtesting. This is a feature offered by few brokers which allow evaluation of trading strategies using historical data. You can also automate trading strategies that allow orders to be set to auto-trigger off a set of specified conditions.

Data and Research

This is another area where the platforms differ greatly. The Public.com app has investment themes. This allows you to participate in larger trends, which are collections of stocks and funds that share a similar underlying theme. There are numerous themes including women in charge, home and garden, travel and leisure, media, fighting disease, plant-based movement, and food delivery. These themes make the investment process a little simpler and discovering interesting options is fun and easy.

TD Ameritrade has a number of data and research resources that you can access free of charge. There are informational courses and videos that can help you to learn about fundamental and technical analysis.

You can also download the ThinkorSwim tactical trading platform. This will allow you to analyze stock charts and conduct a technical analysis. There are also free-of-charge reports from a variety of highly regarded companies from names such as Credit Suisse and Morningstar. You can use these reports to analyze credit ratings, price targets, and more.

Public.com Advantages

  • Fractional Shares: This is one of the greatest strengths of Public.com, particularly when compared to TD Ameritrade, is that you can access fractional shares. Price can often be a barrier to investing, particularly if you want to access high profile companies such as Alphabet (Google) or Amazon. While Public is not the only broker supporting fractional share investing, it does create a lower barrier to entry, particularly when compared to TD Ameritrade.
  • Follow Popular Creators: Another advantage of Public.com is that you can follow popular creators and share ideas within the community of investors. This not only creates a fantastic learning resource, but it also adds a social component to the platform.
  • No PFOF: While Public is not unique in offering commission-free trading, unlike many other brokers, Public does not rely on PFOF (payment for order flow) as an income source. Instead, there’s an optional tipping feature.
  • Access to Crypto: Crypto is becoming an increasingly popular investment stream, so it is a massive advantage that Public provides access to cryptocurrencies.
  • Easy to Use Interface: While Public may lack some of the features of TD Ameritrade and other broker platforms, it has a remarkably easy to use interface that is ideal for beginners.

TD Ameritrade Advantages

  • Superb Education Resources: Although the TD Ameritrade platform is more complicated to use, it does offer access to a wealth of educational resources. This includes “ticker tape” (an online digital magazine), daily live market streaming commentary, virtual learning webcasts and workshops, courses, instructional videos, and in person live events.
  • Self-Paced Learning: The user interface allows for self-paced learning, where you can create a personalized, seamless experience.

Final Thoughts on Public.com vs TD Ameritrade

Both Public.com and TD Ameritrade offer a low-cost platform for newbie and more experienced investors. However, while TD Ameritrade has a greater focus on active, short-term traders, Public.com is more geared towards the long-term investor.

Both platforms have a decent interface, but Public has a cleaner interface, which is more beginner-friendly. While it may lack some of the functionality of TD Ameritrade, it does make it more straightforward and less daunting for beginners.

Another aspect that may make Public.com more appealing to beginners is the social aspect of the platform. Public.com has general and specific feeds, where you can discuss investment strategies and benefit from the advice of other platform users and investment experts.

Although TD Ameritrade does offer more account types, there are a few gaps in the platform, which are covered by Public.com. This includes access to crypto and fractional shares. Both of these investment options may appeal to beginners or more experienced investors who want to diversify.

In conclusion of our Public.com vs TD Ameritrade comparison, both platforms are excellent options, but they are likely to appeal to different users. While TD Ameritrade is best suited to active short-term traders, if you’re relatively new to investing or are looking to diversify into crypto, Public.com is likely to be a better fit.

*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/

Disclosure: Information presented on Vital Dollar and through related email marketing is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to be taken as financial advice. Please see our Disclosure for further information.