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Today, investing in the stock market is more accessible to retail investors (people like you and me) than ever before. Thanks to investment apps and online brokerages, you can easily place commission-free trades from your smartphone.
Two of the most popular investing apps are Robinhood and Public.com. If you’re unsure which one you should be using, this article provides a comparison so you can decide which is a better fit for your needs.
Of course, since both Robinhood and Public.com offer commission-free trades, you can easily try both for yourself and decide which one you like best. And to make it more enticing, each company currently offers a signup bonus for our readers. If you sign up for Robinhood through this link, you’ll get a free stock worth $2.50 – $225. And if you sign up for Public.com through this link, you’ll get a free slice of stock worth up to $70.
Public.com offer valid for U.S. residents 18+ and subject to account approval. There may be other fees associated with trading. See Public.com/disclosures/.
Robinhood vs. Public.com Overview
- Both Robinhood and Public.com offer similar options for commission-free trades of stocks and ETFs.
- Both also allow an individual investor to get started with as little as $1. You can buy fractional shares of stocks and ETFs on either platform.
- Robinhood stands out by allowing users to trade options and cryptocurrency.
- Public.com stands out by offering a wide range of social features that enable investors to connect with and learn from others in the community.
- Public.com also stands out in terms of transparency and watching out for users’ best interests by not participating in payment for order flow (PFOF).
- Robinhood halted trading of GameStop and other volatile stocks, while Public.com did not restrict its users.
- Both brokerages are user-friendly and appropriate for beginner investors.
Vital Dollar rating
User-friendly mobile app
Trade stocks and ETFs
No account minimums
Purchase fractional shares
Dividend Reinvestment Plan (DRIP)
Advanced social features
Discover stocks by themes
No payment for order flow (PFOF)
Offers in-app support by chat
Pricing & Fees
There are no fees to create an account and start using the trading app for Robinhood or Public.com. Both offer commission-free trades as well. And not only can you make commission-free trades, but both Robinhood and Public.com allow you to purchase fractional shares. Thanks to fractional shares, you can start investing in companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and others with as little as $1.
Of course, both Robinhood and Public.com do charge fees in certain situations. For example, Robinhood offers an optional upgrade called Robinhood Gold. For a cost of $5 per month, you’ll get several benefits like in-depth research reports from Morningstar, advanced market data from Nasdaq, up to $5,000 in instant deposits so you can access your money faster, and borrow from Robinhood so you can invest on margin (risky investments).
Robinhood’s fee schedule:
- ACATS, Outgoing – $75
- Domestic Overnight Check Delivery – $20
- Paper Statements – $5
- Paper Confirms – $2
- Domestic Overnight Mail – $20
- International Overnight Mail – $50
Public.com currently does not have a premium account option. However, you might be accessed fees for things like wire transfers, making a trade over the phone through a broker, or for returned checks. These fees won’t impact most Public.com users.
Public.com’s fee schedule:
- Domestic Wire Transfer – $30
- Domestic Overnight Check Delivery – $35
- Returned Check, ACH, Wire & Recall/Stop Payments – $30
- ACAT – Outgoing – $75
- Paper Statements – $5
- Paper Confirms – $2
- Domestic Overnight Mail – $35
- International Overnight Mai – $50
- Restricted Accounts – $10 + commissions
- Worthless Securities Processing – $30 + other fees may apply
- Tender Offer Order – $50
With commission-free trades available from both Robinhood and Public.com, we consider this area a tie.
Public.com is an investing app that allows you to buy fractional shares of ETFs or stock commission-free for as little as $1. You'll love the social aspect that makes it possible to connect with other investors. Get a free bonus when you open an account through our link. 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. See Public.com/disclosures/.
Both Robinhood and Public.com make it easy to get started. First, you’ll need to create a free account and fill out your details, but it will take just a few minutes in each case.
It doesn’t matter how much money you have right now. You can get started with both Robinhood and Public.com. Even if you have only $1 to invest, you can create an account and place a trade. With no minimums, commission-free trades, and an easy signup process, both Robinhood and Public.com are excellent options for beginners.
Getting started with either of these apps is easy.
Related: The Best ETFs for Long-Term Growth
Robinhood allows users to trade individual stocks, ETFs, options, and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, and many others. You can also purchase fractional shares for as little as $1, so if you don’t have enough money to buy a full share of Amazon or another expensive stock, you can still invest.
Public.com allows users to trade stocks and ETFs but does not currently support options or digital currencies. I’ve been told by Public.com that the trading of cryptocurrency is coming soon. Like Robinhood, Public.com also supports fractional shares (they call them “slices”). However, neither app currently allows you to invest in mutual funds.
Both Robinhood and Public.com offer automatic dividend reinvestment (DRIP). If you own a stock or ETF that pays dividends to shareholders, you’ll have the option to have those dividends automatically reinvested by purchasing more shares. Taking advantage of DRIP is an ideal way to grow your investment portfolio over time.
Robinhood also has an advantage by providing instant access to up to $1,000 when you contribute new cash. If you’re transferring $500 from your bank account to Robinhood, typically, Robinhood will allow you to access that money immediately rather than waiting a few days for the transfer to complete. If you’re transferring a larger amount, like $5,000, Robinhood will typically allow you to immediately access up to $1,000 of the funds.
Robinhood comes out ahead here by offering options and cryptocurrency. However, if you’re only interested in trading stocks and ETFs, that may not matter to you.
Currently, the options for account types are the same with Robinhood and Public.com. Unfortunately, neither online brokerage currently supports retirement accounts like IRAs, so your only option with these online trading platforms is to open a taxable account. Having the chance to open an IRA would be ideal, so hopefully, both add that option in the future.
Other account types like joint accounts and custodial accounts are also not currently offered by either brokerage platform.
In early 2021, Robinhood was involved in some controversy as it temporarily froze new purchases of GameStop stock and a few other stocks that were experiencing extreme volatility. Robinhood wasn’t the only brokerage to take similar action. However, the move didn’t generate a positive response from users, with many investors moving their money to other investment platforms.
Robinhood has also received negative publicity for other reasons. They paid $65 million to the SEC to settle charges related to misleading customers about revenue sources. There was also an incident in 2018 when Robinhood announced it would be offering checking and savings accounts insured by the SIPC. A few days later, news broke that Robinhood had not contacted the SIPC about these accounts, and the SIPC said they would not be insured.
As you can see, there have been some transparency issues related to Robinhood. On the other hand, Public.com has not had similar problems. In early 2021, pay for order flow (PFOF) began to get more publicity. Brokerages like Robinhood generate revenue with PFOF by directing orders to different parties for trade execution. It’s a somewhat controversial practice, and Public.com made changes to stop generating revenue with PFOF. Instead, Public.com instituted an optional tipping functionality so users can leave a tip if they choose when placing a trade.
Overall, Public.com seems to be more committed to transparency. As a result, the company’s goals seem to be more aligned with users, and it’s simply easier to like and trust Public.com as a user.
Community and Social Features
Possibly the most significant difference between these two investing platforms is the social aspect offered by Public.com. Robinhood, like most other brokerages, does not include a social platform. However, Public.com is essentially a cross between an investing platform and a social network.
As a Public.com user, you can:
- Connect with other investors, participate in community discussions
- See what stocks and ETFs others are buying and selling
- Learn from the community
These social features are perfect for new investors who want to learn from others.
Public.com also offers what they call “Town Halls,” where a founder or executive of a publicly traded company is available for questions and answers. Users can submit questions through the app and get an answer. This can be highly valuable access, and it’s ideal for learning more about companies you might want to invest in.
Overall, Public.com has a strong community feel. When you open the app, you’ll see trending discussions that you can browse through or participate in. Users seem to have a strong sense of community, and most are very willing to help others. It’s an encouraging community where people want to see others succeed.
Public.com’s social features are a big advantage for new investors who want to learn more, as well as experienced traders and advanced investors who enjoy connecting with others.
Ease of Use
Robinhood and Public.com were created to make investing more accessible to everyone. Beginners and new investors are essential to both platforms, so they’ve both made substantial efforts to keep things simple.
While Robinhood is generally easy to use, I find Public.com to be slightly more user-friendly. The app design and user interface are very logical, and there’s no learning curve needed.
Both of these platforms offer an excellent user experience, but Public.com has a slight advantage, in my opinion.
Data and Research
Both Robinhood and Public.com offer access to data, research, and educational resources on specific companies and investments. However, the available data is limited. Since both of these platforms prioritize ease of use, they do not offer advanced reporting and analysis functionality. Competitors like Webull provide more data and research, but Webull is not as easy to use and not as beginner-friendly.
Robinhood provides market news, analyst ratings, candlestick charts, and users can create a watchlist.
Public.com offers reviews of fundamentals, lists of top movers, plus the ability to learn through town halls and other social features.
Public.com also makes it easy to research stocks by discovering companies according to themes. Themes are essentially lists of companies that fit into a particular category. For instance, if you’re interested in investing in companies with a female CEO or eco-friendly businesses, you can find ideas through the themes lists.
Both Robinhood and Public.com offer some data for researching investments, but Public.com comes out slightly ahead thanks to the themes and the ability to see what other users are investing in.
Support and Customer Service
Ideally, you won’t need help from customer service with either of these brokerages. However, there may be a time when you have a question or need assistance for some reason. Support is often something that gets overlooked until it becomes a problem.
Public.com offers support by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) as well as by chat. The live chat functionality is available directly in the app from 9:00 am – 4:30 pm Eastern, Monday through Friday. This is significant because most investing apps offer minimal customer service. Public.com makes it possible to get help from the customer service team if needed.
Robinhood users can get support by filling out a form to create a ticket to get an email response. That’s the only option for customer service.
Public.com is the clear winner in terms of customer service. Should you ever need help with either of these platforms, you’re likely to get a more timely and helpful response from Public.com.
Free Stock Bonus
Both Robinhood and Public.com offer an exciting signup bonus for new users. When you create a free Robinhood account through this referral link, you’ll get a free stock worth $2.50 – $225.
When you create a free Public.com account through this referral link, you’ll get a free slice of stock worth up to $70.
Public.com gives you the option to choose the stock you want to receive, while Robinhood gives you stock at random. Still, there’s no reason not to sign up for both to get two bonuses. And if you like free stock, please see our article with many more ways to get free stock.
Both Robinhood and Public.com are excellent options for investors, particularly new investors. If you’re interested in trading cryptocurrencies (like Bitcoin and Ethereum) or day trading stocks, we recommend Robinhood. Otherwise, Public.com is our top choice. The social features, better transparency, and superior customer service contribute to our recommendation of Public.com over Robinhood for those who want to trade in the stock market.