Public vs. Stash Review: What is the Best Sustainable Investing App?

Both Public and Stash are beginner-friendly investing apps that let you easily find sustainable stocks and funds and buy fractional shares. However, the two platforms are very different. Keep reading to learn which one you should choose.

SustainFi November 2, 2021

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At a glance

  • Both Stash and Public are beginner-friendly investing apps with access to fractional shares. And they let you invest in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) options that consider factors like carbon emissions and shareholder rights. But, because the apps are so different, the best option depends on what type of investor you are
  • Best for active traders and crypto investors: Public. Public lets you connect with and follow other investors and buy crypto. But you can’t link your retirement account or open a bank account
  • Lowest-cost option: Public. The app doesn’t charge any fees, unlike Stash
  • Best for beginners struggling to save: Stash. Stash lets you round up your change and invest it, plus you can open a bank account and earn stock rewards. Stash also supports retirement accounts. However, Stash can be quite pricey, especially for small account balances

Keep reading to learn more.

Minimum investment

$5

Minimum investment

$0

Commissions and fees

$1 - $9 / month

Commissions and fees

None

Sustainable option

5 Sustainable themes. Pick from 4,000 stocks and funds

Sustainable option

ESG themes. Pick from 5,000+ stocks and funds

Fractional shares

Yes

Fractional shares

Yes

Round up your change

Yes

Round up your change

No

Crypto

No

Crypto

Yes

What is the Public app?

Public is a free social trading app and an investing social network. Formerly known as Matador, the app launched in 2019 to make investing easily accessible to everyone. With Public, you can:

  • Invest in fractional shares (“slices”) of stocks and ETFs
  • Follow your friends or popular influencers and share your ideas
  • Invest in thematic stocks and funds
  • Invest in crypto and hold it in the same app as your stock portfolio

Historically, many groups of investors missed out on the market’s returns, and Public’s goal is to correct that by making investing easy. The app has a user-friendly interface and has already surpassed 1 million users despite being launched only two years ago. Public is also inclusive: according to CEO Jannick Malling, 40% of investors are women, and 45% are minorities.

Public’s backers include Will Smith, Professor Scott Galloway, Girlboss founder Sophia Amoruso, and skateboarding legend Tony Hawk. You can follow various celebrities on the app and see how they invest.

All users on the platform are verified, and the overall vibe is supportive. By verifying all the users, Public avoids the less savory aspects and the anonymity of some popular Reddit boards.

Public is committed to helping you invest rather than day trade or speculate in the short term. 90% of users say that they are mostly long-term investors. As a result, Public doesn’t offer options trading. Tellingly, when you look up a stock, the button next to it says “Invest” and not “Buy.” Public also highlights stocks deemed to be particularly risky by the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC).

🔔 Read the full review of Public.

What is Stash Invest?

Stash is a personal finance app that makes investing easy for beginners. Wall Street veterans Brandon Krieg and Ed Robinson started Stash 2015 with the mission of making investing inclusive and accessible to ordinary Americans. As of 2020, Stash grew to over five million customers and $2.5 billion in assets under management.

In addition to making investing easy, Stash offers a bank account with a Stock Back Card (which gives you cash back in stocks). Stash Invest also has a robo-advisor, Smart Portfolios, that doesn’t currently invest in sustainable funds. (If you are looking for a beginner-friendly robo-advisor with sustainable options, check out Acorns.)

🔔 Read the full review of Stash.

Public vs. Stash: Account Types

Public lets you invest through your taxable investment account only.

Stash supports the following account types, though their robo-advisor only works with individual investment accounts:

  • Taxable personal investment accounts
  • Retirement accounts for traditional and Roth IRAs (Stash Growth and Stash+ members only)
  • Custodial accounts for kids (Stash+ members only)

💰 The winner: Stash, which supports more account types. Public doesn’t offer retirement or custodial accounts.

Public vs. Stash: Banking

Public doesn’t have any banking options.

Stash offers checking accounts with a debit card through a partnership with Green Dot Bank. If you set up a direct deposit, you have the option to get your paycheck two days early, too. And you can make instant transfers between your checking and investing accounts.

Stock Back Rewards. Stash accounts come with a Stock Back rewards card. When you spend money at places like Amazon (AMZN) that have stocks listed on the platform, you get 0.125% back in stock in the companies where you make purchases. Stash+ members get 0.25% back. If the place where you spend money doesn’t have a publicly listed stock, you can choose what stock or ETF to get. 

💰 The winner: Stash, since Public has no banking option. However, Stash checking accounts don’t pay interest, and cash back rate is low. If you are looking for a sustainable banking option with a high APY, check out Aspiration.

Public vs. Stash: Minimum investment

Public has no minimum balance: you can start with $1, though you need $5 to make an investment. That is easy because they give you $5 in free stock when you sign up.

Stash lets you start investing with $5.

💰 The winner: Tie. In practice, both apps have no real minimum.

Public vs. Stash: Commissions and fees

Public is free. The app makes money from optional tipping, lending your shares, interest on the cash in your account, and markups on crypto trades.

Stash charges $1-$9/month for membership. There are three membership plans:

  • Stash Beginner ($1/month) includes a personal investment account, a Stock Back Card, and $1,000 worth of life insurance coverage through Avibra

  • Stash Growth ($3/month) adds a Roth or Traditional IRA to the Beginner features

  • Stash+ ($9/month) comes with all the Beginner and Growth features, plus a Stock Back Card that earns double stock, investment accounts for kids, a monthly market insights report, and $10,000 of life insurance coverage through Avibra

$1-$9/month may be quite expensive as a percentage if you have very little invested. Robo-advisors like Betterment, Marcus Invest, and Ally Invest charge 0.25%-0.35% of assets for managing your money.

If you only put $1,000 in your Stash account and sign up for Stash Growth, you are paying 3.6% of your assets annually. And, if you are not using the Smart Portfolio, Stash doesn’t actually manage your investments as a robo-advisor would. It’s more like a brokerage. However, if you invest $10,000, you are paying 0.36%, which is more reasonable, and you get perks like the Stock Back card and life insurance.

💰 The winner: Public, which is free. Stash can end up being very expensive for smaller account balances.

Public vs. Stash: Stock selection

Public lets you choose from 5,000+ stocks and funds.

Stash offers around 4,000 stocks and ETFs to choose from.

💰 The winner: Public.

Public vs. Stash: Crypto

Stash doesn’t offer crypto, but Public currently supports:

  • Bitcoin (BTC)
  • Ether (ETH)
  • Cardano (ADA)
  • Dogecoin (DOGE)
  • Litecoin (LTC)
  • Bitcoin Cash (BCH)
  • Shiba Inu ($SHIB)
  • Stellar (XLM)
  • Ethereum Classic (ETC)
  • Dash (DASH)
  • Zcash (ZEC)

💰 The winner: Public.

Public vs. Stash: Sustainable Investing Options

Both Stash and Public let you find sustainable investing options, including stocks that score better on environmental, social, and governance metrics like carbon emissions as well as clean energy investments.

Public thematic investing

Public helps you find ESG stocks and funds easily by grouping them into themes. As of October 2021, they featured the following themes:

  • Women in Charge: public companies led by female CEOs
  • Diverse Leadership: companies that are setting the bar when it comes to diversity and inclusion
  • Plant-Based Movement: companies innovating & investing in plant-based food for a better-tasting and greener future
  • Reuse and Reduce: companies converting waste materials into new materials and objects
  • Combat Carbon: companies actively working towards reducing their carbon footprint
  • Green Power: these energy companies produce power through sustainable and renewable means
  • Immigrant Founders: U.S.-based companies that were founded by immigrants
  • Water Works: companies responsible for supplying and purifying drinking water

For example, if you select the “Green Power” theme, the app will suggest a list of stocks like Tesla (TSLA) and NextEra Energy (NEE) and ETFs, such as the Guggenheim Solar ETF (TAN). This makes ESG stocks and funds easy to find.

🔔 Read the full review of Public’s themes.

Stash Missions & Causes

Stash groups ETFs into themes, which makes ETF investing accessible for beginners.

We were particularly interested in the Missions and Causes selection, which offers six thematic funds. The funds cover water, low-carbon, women leadership, cannabis, clean energy, and high environmental, social, and governance (ESG) score funds. Here is the list:

  • Women Who Lead: SPDR SSGA Gender Diversity Index ETF (SHE)
  • Water the World: Invesco Water Resources ETF (PHO)
  • Combat Carbon: iShares MSCI ACWI Low Carbon Target ETF (CRBN)
  • Clean & Green: iShares Global Clean Energy ETF (ICLN)
  • Corporate Cannabis: ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (MJ)
  • Do the Right Thing: iShares MSCI USA ESG Select ETF (SUSA)

🔔 Read the full review of the sustainable ETFs on the Stash platform.

💰 The winner: Public. Both apps have a good selection of sustainable stocks and funds and make finding these options easy, but Public has more options and goes beyond funds by showing you stocks, too.

Public vs. Stash: Fractional shares

Both apps let you buy fractions of shares.

Fractional shares allow you to buy a piece of a share if buying the entire thing is more than you would like to spend. For example, one share of Tesla (TSLA) stock costs $800, but if you only want to spend $100, you can buy 1/8 of that share. Buying fractions of shares limits how much cash is sitting in your account unspent.

💰 The winner: Tie.

Public vs. Stash: Roundups

Stash lets you round up your purchases to the nearest dollar and invest the roundups once they hit $5.

💰 The winner: Stash. Public doesn’t offer this option.

Public vs. Stash: Margin lending

Neither app lets you borrow against the value of your investments. But if you are looking for a margin loan, you can check out M1 Finance.

💰 The winner: None.

Public vs. Stash: Automatic rebalancing

Public doesn’t offer any rebalancing, and neither does Stash if you build your own portfolio. Stash Smart Portfolios does offer quarterly rebalancing.

Automatic rebalancing is when a robo-advisor buys or sells investments to get to your optimal asset allocation, like 80% stocks and 20% bonds. Sometimes when one asset class, like stocks, does much better than another one, like bonds, your portfolio may “drift” and become riskier (or less risky) than it should be. Automatic rebalancing solves that.

💰 The winner: Tie. Neither app offers rebalancing unless you choose Stash Smart Portfolios, but that doesn’t have any sustainable options.

💰 The Overall Winner

Both apps offer:

  • Fractional shares
  • $5 minimum to invest

Best for no fees and for active and crypto investors: Public. Public is free. And it is great for investors who want to follow other investors’ trading activity. It is great for:

  • No commission or membership fee
  • Social investing
  • Crypto
  • 5,000+ funds and stocks to invest in

Best for beginners struggling to save: Stash. Stash lets you round up your change and invest it. You can also get a bank account or invest through your retirement account. Stash is best for:

  • Round up and invest your change
  • Retirement accounts
  • Bank account with a stock rewards debit card

🔔 Neither Stash nor Public offer sustainable investment management. If you want to have someone build a sustainable portfolio for you, check out Acorns.

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