In this guide

  • Our verdict
  • How we rated Public's investment features
  • Public fees
  • Public investment choice and stocks
  • Is Public safe and legit?
  • Public account types and products
  • Public ease of use
  • Public customer reviews
  • Public tools, resources and features
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Your reviews
Public.com
3.8
★★★★★
Finder score
Capital at risk
Price per trade
£0
Min. initial deposit
N/A

Our verdict

Public launched in the UK in July 2023 and we’ve tested the commission-free US stock trading app, which also has no platform fee, but there are a few drawbacks.

After gaining popularity with US retail investors in its homeland, Public is looking to shake up the UK. Americans are known for being bold, and Public echoes this with its huge range of US stocks, allowing you to invest commission-free in thousands of companies.

The downside is that you’ll still face some fees. Investing across the pond is your only option and everything is calculated in dollars. So you’ll have to pay a foreign exchange (FX) fee, but Public structures this differently from most. Instead of paying an FX fee for each trade, the 0.3% charge is paid on deposits and withdrawals. The minimum first deposit is £20, but after that, you can deposit as little as £1 (investments must be at least $5).

Like other popular international platforms, Public lacks account choices (no tax-efficient options like ISAs or pensions), but it’s free to open and hold an account. The Public app is packed with plenty of analysis features and tools organised intuitively, and when we tried it out, we found the tools provided some useful insights.

Pros

  • No commissions and invest from just $5
  • Zero platform fees
  • Over 5,000 US stocks
  • Lots of free analysis features
  • Excellent mobile app

Cons

  • US stocks only
  • No ISAs or other tax-efficient accounts
  • FX fee on all sterling deposits and withdrawals
  • Trade only in US stock market hours
  • Full analysis features only with paid plans

In this guide

  • Our verdict
  • How we rated Public's investment features
  • Public fees
  • Public investment choice and stocks
  • Is Public safe and legit?
  • Public account types and products
  • Public ease of use
  • Public customer reviews
  • Public tools, resources and features
  • Frequently asked questions
  • Your reviews

Public launched its UK platform in July 2023 but as of 3 May 2024, it will be shutting down its UK operations.

How we rated Public's investment features

FeatureRatingDetails
Fees

★★★★★ 4.5/5

Public offers a cheap place to invest with low fees across the board.
Investment choice

★★★★★3.7/5

It offers plenty of US stocks, but is limited in the investments available.
Safety and security

★★★★★ 3.6/5

Overall, Public offers a secure place to invest but the only concern is lack of FSCS protection.
Account types and products

★★★★★ 2.9/5

The platform is limited when it comes to account types, with only a GIA.
Ease of use

★★★★★ 4.3/5

Public offers a comprehensive investing experience that most users seem happy with.
Tools, resources and features

★★★★★ 4/5

There’s plenty of free features packed into the Public platform.

What is Public?

The company burst onto the US retail investing scene in 2019 after raising over $300 million from institutional investors such as Accel and Tiger Global, along with plenty of celebrity backers like Sean “Diddy” Combs, Tony Hawk, Will Smith, and a number of others. But being backed by rappers, skateboarders and actors doesn’t guarantee anything.

Unlike some US competitors (such as Robinhood), Public prides itself on not making money from “payment for order flow”. This is a system where investors’ trades are sold to market makers or third parties, and means Public’s interests are aligned with its investors’ and not those of external financial institutions. We explain it below.

Public fees

Fees score

★★★★★

Platform fee£0 ($10/month for premium)
UK sharesN/A
US stocks£0
International sharesN/A
Funds/ETFsN/A
Foreign exchange (FX) fee0.3%
Regular investingNo
Withdrawal/deposit fee£0 (0.3% FX fee applies to deposits/withdrawals)
Inactivity fee£0

This is an area where Public shines and can compete with most of the established best trading apps and platforms in the UK.

Investors interested in US stocks will be celebrating like it’s 4 July – along with no platform fees, there’s no commission when buying or selling stocks.

However, it’s not all fireworks and chicken wings. Since you can only trade US equities, you’ll need to pay a small foreign exchange (FX) fee to convert your sterling.

Public arranges this FX in a slightly different way from most platforms. Usually, you’d hold sterling in your account and then when you want to buy a US stock, you’d pay an FX fee as part of the trade.

Instead, Public charges its FX fee when you make a deposit into your account, and then everything is denominated in US dollars. Sadly, you also get hit with an FX fee when making a withdrawal.

This is a similar system that’s used by eToro, but Public trumps eToro with its lower FX fee of 0.3% (compared to 0.5%). Another thing to bear in mind is that the commission-free trading only applies during US stock market trading hours (which will be different to the UK).

Public investment choice and stocks

Investment choice score

★★★★★

Asset options1+
Markets1+
Number of investments5,000+
Number of ETFs/fundsN/A
Fractional shares
Minimum deposit£20 (initially, then £1)
Minimum investment$5

Public focuses purely on US-listed securities and this is one of the biggest limitations with the trading app. It will suit those who want to concentrate on US stocks, but investors looking to trade UK shares or investments from further afield will need to look elsewhere.

However, because you can use Public without paying any platform fees and there’s no commission on US stocks, it might be worth using this as a secondary trading platform (although the lack of an ISA or other tax-efficient account is definitely a drag).

Public is still completely based in the US, so it may be complex for it to add international stocks for the time being. The fact that the US version of the app doesn’t support foreign investments (apart from over-the-counter OTC stocks) makes us think that this won’t be explored in the near future.

OTC stocks trade more directly between investors – without a stock exchange in the middle – which means they can be less liquid (meaning it’s harder to find buyers and sellers) and are sometimes more volatile in price.

The lack of other asset types, particularly exchange-traded funds (ETFs) isn’t ideal, but Public could still act as your one-stop-shop to invest in US stocks.

Your first minimum deposit must be at least £20, but after that it can be as little as £1. Each time you buy a stock (or a fractional share), the trade must be at least $5, but you can sell less than $5 of stock.

What is payment for order flow?

George Sweeney DipFA

Finder money expert George Sweeney answers
Payment for order flow (PFOF) is a system where brokers or share dealing platforms receive a payment for selling their clients’ (your) trades. These sales are usually made to “market makers” which you can think of as a wholesaler.

It sounds sensible enough but it can create a conflict of interest between a brokerage and its clients because the entity it sells these orders to is also a customer. It can lead to hidden costs baked into share prices, less competitive trade executions, and possibly poorer market conditions.

It’s not always a bad thing but it depends on the integrity of the market maker who’s paying for the order flow (Bernie Madoff was one of the first to use PFOF).

Is Public safe and legit?

Safety and security score

★★★★★

Biometric login/2FA
FCA regulated
FSCS protection
SSL certificate
Public company

Public is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as an appointed representative (AR) of Khepri Advisors. One major downside with Public is that it doesn’t come with Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) protection.

One upside is that for your US investments, because Public is FINRA regulated and a registered member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) – your US securities are protected up to the value of $500,000 should Public fail.

Although as always when you invest, your capital is at risk.

Public account types and products

Account types and products score

★★★★★

General investment account (GIA)
Stock and shares ISA
Self-invested personal pension (SIPP)
Lifetime ISA (LISA)
Junior ISA (JISA)/Junior SIPP (JSIPP)
Business Account
Interest on cash balances

Unfortunately, Public offers UK investors access only to a general investment account (GIA). This is common practice among international platforms launching in the UK and is definitely a downside compared with most UK-based share dealing platforms.

So, you’ll need to look elsewhere if you want to make the most of UK tax-efficient “wrappers” like a stocks and shares ISA for investments or a self-invested personal pension (SIPP) for your retirement portfolio.

With a Public account, you can invest as much as you like. However, you should be aware that if your stock portfolio grows, any potential gains may be subject to tax.

In the 2023/24 tax year, you have a capital gains tax (CGT) allowance of £6,000 – any profit over this amount could mean handing over some of those hard-won investing gains to the taxman.

Similarly, if you hold any stocks or shares that pay dividends, anything over £1,000 could also be taxed. These allowances can change each tax year.

You should also brush up on US tax rules. When you sign up and submit your W-8BEN, you make a declaration that you’re not a US tax resident, so you don’t need to file a tax return there. However, dividends from US stocks will automatically be subject to a 15% withholding tax (WHT), but Public will handle this on your behalf.

Public ease of use

Ease of use score

★★★★★

Apple iOS rating4.7/5
Google Play rating3.7/5
Ways to contact customer serviceEmail and in-app messaging
UI/UXGood
Desktop or mobile appBoth

Public scored fairly well in our ease of use assessment. You can get hold of the support team through email or in-app messaging, and you’re also able to invest using either the mobile app or the web desktop platform.

If you need to get hold of the US-based customer support team, you can do it via email – support@public.com. You can get hold of the Public team through in-app chat, which can be slow outside of US market hours.

On the App Store, Public scores 4.7 out of 5, but on Google Play it has a lower 3.7 out of 5 (as of January 2024). Keep in mind these are from both UK and US reviewers (but mainly US customers).

Public customer reviews

ScoreRating
TrustpilotN/A
User reviewsN/A

Unfortunately, there’s no data or reviews on Trustpilot relating to Public’s investment platform and Finder doesn’t have any customer reviews yet either as Public launched not long ago.

Public tools, resources and features

Tools, resources and features

★★★★★

Analysis features
Tools for investing/trading
Social features
Learning resources
Additional Features

Public offers users on its free plan plenty of stock analysis and research to get stuck into. But if you want the most in-depth features, you’ll need to subscribe to its Premium paid plan.

However, the free plan from Public puts plenty at your fingertips, such as:

  • Major market stats at a glance
  • Upcoming earnings info
  • Chart and data comparison of assets (excellent for comparing competitors)
  • Stock stats (market cap, revenue, P/E ratio, dividend yield, and more)
  • Earnings per share (EPS) for each quarter, shown on a graph next to past expectations
  • Analysts ratings for buy, sell, or hold
  • Latest company news

Along with all this, there’s a social feed where you can post and follow other investors, and there’s even a live pre-market broadcast recapping the previous day and setting things up for the day ahead, which is useful but operates on US market hours.

Public Premium plan

Along with its free account, Public offers a paid Premium plan which offers additional features like portfolio insights from the analysis specialist Morningstar, and deeper stock insights. This plan costs $96 (around £75) a year or $10 (around £8) a month.

If you’re willing to pay to upgrade your plan to Public premium, you also get these additional features:

  • The ability to listen in to earnings calls, in-app
  • In-depth Morningstar analyst reports
  • Finance fundamentals like balance sheet access
  • Bull case vs bear case information
  • Operational metrics (like how many electric vehicles Tesla delivers, or how many people are subscribing to Netflix)
  • Extended-hours trading
  • VIP customer support
  • Additional portfolio management tools

Whether you need all the extra paid features will be a personal preference. There’s definitely plenty of useful nuggets and tools thrown in, but that they’ll be of most benefit to investors who want to leave no stone unturned in your research.

Public will be adding artificial intelligence (AI) insights shortly, called “Alpha” which is powered by OpenAI’s GPT-4. It will provide stock insights and historical data customised to your personal queries and questions (whether this will translate to a better investing experience remains to be seen).

How to sign up for Public

We found it easy enough to get the app and sign up. Although, a commonplace name like “Public” means it’s best to scan the QR code on the site to make sure you download the right application.

Here’s what you need to do to if you want to join the Public investing app:

  1. Head to the Public app or website. You can find the QR code to download the app on the website or head straight to the App Store or Google Play.
  2. Enter your basic details. You’ll need to start with your mobile number and then provide your personal information, including country of residence and citizenship.
  3. Get verified. The next step is to upload your current ID, and submit your National Insurance (NI) number along with your income source and employment details.
  4. Agree to terms (including W-8BEN). As you’d expect, there’s a bunch of terms and conditions to sign, an electronic W-8BEN form is included in this, which confirms you’re not a US tax resident.
  5. Know your customer (KYC). You’ll then be asked briefly about your investing goals, experience, and level of income.
  6. Link your bank account. Public lets you link up your bank account straight away to make direct deposits and withdrawals easier.
  7. Submit and await verification. Once you’ve submitted all your details, the Public team will verify everything. This took around 10 minutes for us.
  8. Deposit funds. When everything is set up, you can deposit funds in-app with just a few clicks.

What does the Public app look like?

Public app
Public app
Public app

Frequently asked questions

Share dealing platform scores

★★★★★ — Excellent
★★★★★ — Good
★★★★★ — Average
★★★★★ — Subpar
★★★★★ — Poor

Finder scores, in blue, are based on our expert analysis. We also show reviews from users, where we've received more than 10, with a score in yellow. We gather more reviews from customers every year in Finder's customer satisfaction survey.

All investing should be regarded as longer term. The value of your investments can go up and down, and you may get back less than you invest. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. If you’re not sure which investments are right for you, please seek out a financial adviser. Capital at risk.

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