Three Ways to Buy Options

When you buy equity options you really have made no commitment to buy the underlying equity. Your options are open. Here are three ways to buy options with examples that demonstrate when each method might be appropriate:

Hold until maturity...

...then trade: This means that you hold onto your options contracts until the end of the contract period, prior to expiration, and then exercise the option at the strike price.

When would you want to do this? Suppose you were to buy a Call option at a strike price of $25, and the market price of the stock advances continuously, moving to $35 at the end of the option contract period. Since the underlying stock price has gone up to $35, you can now exercise your Call option at the strike price of $25 and benefit from a profit of $10 per share ($1,000) before subtracting the cost of the premium and commissions.

Trade before the expiration date

You exercise your option at some point before the expiration date.

For example: You buy the same Call option with a strike price of $25, and the price of the underlying stock is fluctuating above and below your strike price. After a few weeks the stock rises to $31 and you don’t think it will go much higher - in fact it just might drop again. You exercise your Call option immediately at the strike price of $25 and benefit from a profit of $6 a share ($600) before subtracting the cost of the premium and commissions.

Let the option expire

You don’t trade the option and the contract expires.

Another example: You buy the same Call option with a strike price of $25, and the underlying stock price just sits there or it keeps sinking. You do nothing. At expiration, you will have no profit and the option will expire worthless. Your loss is limited to the premium you paid for the option and commissions.

Again, in each of the above examples, you will have paid a premium for the option itself. The cost of the premium and any brokerage fees you paid will reduce your profit. The good news is that, as a buyer of options, the premium and commissions are your only risk. So in the third example, although you did not earn a profit, your loss was limited no matter how far the stock price fell.


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Disclaimer: This site discusses exchange-traded options issued by the Options Clearing Corporation. No statement on this site is to be construed as a recommendation to purchase or sell a security, or to provide investment advice. Options involve risks and are not suitable for all investors. Prior to buying or selling an option, a person must receive and review a copy of Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options published by The Options Clearing Corporation. Copies may be obtained from your broker; one of the exchanges; The Options Clearing Corporation at One North Wacker Drive, Suite 500, Chicago, IL 60606; by calling 1-888-OPTIONS; or by visiting www.888options.com. Any strategies discussed, including examples using actual securities and price data, are strictly for illustrative and education purposes and are not to be construed as an endorsement, recommendation or solicitation to buy or sell securities.

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