Robinhood or Public - Is Robinhood The Best or Is Public Better?
These are not the only two brokerages that exist but for now, we focus on the two most popular trading apps: Public vs Robinhood. And no, we did not get paid to write this. There are no affiliate links - just honest, objective-driven opinions.
As someone who was new to investing and stock only 18 months ago, I didn't know where to start. A couple guy friends recommended Robinhood (mainly because they wanted the free stock for referring me) so I gave it a chance.
But when Robinhood got hit by several scandals including gambling-like animations and their handling and response to the Gamestop short squeeze, I decided to try Public.
On The Surface:
Both products offer simplicity, commission-free trading, and fractional investing, but what sets them apart is the ethos and values upon which they are built. While it seems RH almost encourages day trading - especially since it leveled the playing field for everyday investors - Public does not allow it, instead focusing on learning, community, and values-based investing.
Public Deep Dive
A major part of Public's value-prop is to be transparent, social, and helpful so that everyone can feel like a confident investor. And it shows in their features:
- Community-first with a Twitter like feed to share trades, ask questions, follow others (including famous people like Tony Hawk), and participate in Town Hall events
- Create your own chat groups with other traders or DM others
- No day-trading
- Commission-free, but with the option to tip (Public, unlike RH, uses tipping as a way to cover costs rather than Payment For Order Flow)
- Fractional investing - as little as $1 to get started
- Portfolio organization to favor long-term investments
- No account minimums - invest as little as you feel comfortable doing
- DRIP - you have the option to use the Dividend Reinvestment Plan. Instead of giving your dividend in the form of cash, they can reinvest your dividends automatically into the company. Doing so takes advantage of compounding interest.
- THEMES! You can browse and invest in companies based on causes you care about like women-owned, green power, or cannabis companies. You can even do meme stocks if that's your jam.
There are some limitations to Public. Most notably:
- No cryptocurrency - although we don't necessarily view this as a bad thing, we understand that some people may be interested in dabbling in it
- No retirement accounts, joint accounts, or custodial accounts.
- No way to assign a beneficiary in the event you die. This is a BIG problem but they found a workaround: request a Transfer On Death ("TOD") registration form from their support team (wow that's dark).
- A slightly more cumbersome UI. You cannot re-order your investments in the app so they appear in the order you bought them rather than some other way to organize (ie: most amount invested vs least).
Robinhood Deep Dive
How does Public compare to Robinhood? Let's not forget that RH was THE app that made stock investing much more accessible to people. How? By removing the commission for every trade (PFOF is dicey in and of itself but we'll get to that later), they made it easier for the everyday human to try investing. Before, you had to pay $8 for every trade (yeah, take that Gen Z)! Now, all the brokerages are on the RH bandwagon, having removed the trading fee.
But RH has had a tumultuous history as it did its Silicon Valley disruption thing. For now, let's focus on their offerings:
- Commission-free trading
- Fractional shares
- Cryptocurrency (that is not regulated by FINRA or ensured by the FDIC)
- Super clean and friendly UI that makes viewing trades and performance easy... almost too easy...
- A solid portfolio breakdown, including the sectors in which you are investing to see how diversified you really are
- Additional features such as Robinhood Gold (premium features such as in-depth market research and margin trading) and Cash Management (a high yield savings account with a debit card that allows you to gain some interest on any unused funds in your RH account)
- Build your own lists of stocks you want to follow
And just like with Public, there are some limitations to Robinhood. Most notably:
- No beneficiary assignment; you have to contact their support team and prove your loved one died with a death certificate
- No social/community option
- No chat/DM option
- A poor track record of customer service
- Cannot search for stocks based on themes or causes you care about
- No joint or retirement accounts
Our Final Verdict?
We do believe this comes down to personal preference. If you want more flexibility and features, are comfortable forging alone, and like a clean UI, then Robinhood is your best bet.
But for our utmost beginner looking for an inclusive space, a friendly community to ask questions, and values-based investing, we recommend Public. The Public community has many female influencers and (the few) rude comments that pop up are quickly removed. We recommend that any newbie female investor getting her feet wet try out Public over Robinhood, which seems to encourage more trading with its fancy buttons and colors.