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Options Trading Explained - Free Online Guide to Trading Options

In order to place the trade, you must make three strategic choices:. This determines what type of options contract you take on. A call option is a contract that gives you the right, but not the obligation, to buy a stock at a predetermined price called the strike price within a certain time period. A put option gives you the right, but not the obligation, to sell shares at a stated price before the contract expires.

If the stock does indeed rise above the strike price, your option is in the money. If the stock drops below the strike price, your option is in the money.

Call vs Put Options Basics

Option quotes, technically called option chains, contain a range of available strike prices. The price you pay for an option has two components: The price you pay for an option, called the premium, has two components: Intrinsic value is the difference between the strike price and the share price, if the stock price is above the strike. Time value is whatever is left, and factors in how volatile the stock is, the time to expiration and interest rates, among other elements.

Every options contract has an expiration date that indicates the last day you can exercise the option.

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Your choices are limited to the ones offered when you call up an option chain. Expiration dates can range from days to months to years. Daily and weekly options tend to be the riskiest and are reserved for seasoned option traders. For long-term investors, monthly and yearly expiration dates are preferable.

Longer expirations give the stock more time to move and time for your investment thesis to play out. A longer expiration is also useful because the option can retain time value, even if the stock trades below the strike price. If a trade has gone against them, they can usually still sell any time value remaining on the option — and this is more likely if the option contract is longer. Options trading can be complicated. That education can come in many forms, including:.

How to open a brokerage account. Reliable customer service should be a high priority, particularly for newer options traders. Consider what kind of contact you prefer. Does the broker have a dedicated trading desk on call? What hours is it staffed? What about representatives who can answer questions about your account? Even before you apply for an account, reach out and ask some questions to see if the answers and response time are satisfactory.

Getting your feet wet

Options trading platforms come in all shapes and sizes. They can be web- or software-based, desktop or online only, have separate platforms for basic and advanced trading, offer full or partial mobile functionality, or some combination of the above. Check to see if the fancy stuff costs extra. For example, most brokers provide free delayed quotes, lagging 20 minutes behind market data, but charge a fee for a real-time feed.

Similarly, some pro-level tools may be available only to customers who meet monthly or quarterly trading activity or account balance minimums.

3 common mistakes beginners should avoid

But because commissions provide a convenient side-by-side comparison, they often are the first things people look at when picking an options broker. Of course, the less you pay in fees the more profit you keep.

Platform fees, data fees, inactivity fees and fill-in-the-blank fees can easily cancel out the savings you might get from going with a broker that charges a few bucks less for commissions. Discount brokers can charge rock-bottom prices because they provide only bare-bones platforms or tack on extra fees for data and tools. Introduction to Options Trading. Check out our complete guide to trading binary options The covered call is a popular option trading strategy that enables a stockholder to earn additional income by selling calls against a holding of his stock Buying straddles is a great way to play earnings.

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Many a times, stock price gap up or down following the quarterly earnings report but often, the direction of the movement can be unpredictable. For instance, a sell off can occur even though the earnings report is good if investors had expected great results For the short to medium term investor, stock option investing provide an additional suite of investment options to let him make better use of his investment capital When trading options, you will come across the use of certain greek alphabets such as delta or gamma when describing risks associated with various options positions.

They are known as "the greeks" Many options traders tend to overlook the effects of commission charges on their overall profit or loss. Cash dividends issued by stocks have big impact on their option prices.

Without getting in up to your you-know-what

This is because the underlying stock price is expected to drop by the dividend amount on the ex-dividend date Learn about the put call ratio, the way it is derived and how it can be used as a contrarian indicator Another way to play the futures market is via options on futures. Using options to trade futures offer additional leverage and open up more trading opportunities for the seasoned trader Day trading options can be a successful, profitable strategy but there are a couple of things you need to know before you use start using options for day trading If you are very bullish on a particular stock for the long term and is looking to purchase the stock but feels that it is slightly overvalued at the moment, then you may want to consider writing put options on the stock as a means to acquire it at a discount To achieve higher returns in the stock market, besides doing more homework on the companies you wish to buy, it is often necessary to take on higher risk.

A most common way to do that is to buy stocks on margin Some stocks pay generous dividends every quarter. You qualify for the dividend if you are holding on the shares before the ex-dividend date Stocks, futures and binary options trading discussed on this website can be considered High-Risk Trading Operations and their execution can be very risky and may result in significant losses or even in a total loss of all funds on your account. You should not risk more than you afford to lose.

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  8. Before deciding to trade, you need to ensure that you understand the risks involved taking into account your investment objectives and level of experience. Information on this website is provided strictly for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended as a trading recommendation service. What are Stock Options?