Contributor, Benzinga
May 16, 2023

Day trading options can be an exciting and potentially lucrative way to participate in the financial markets. Options are contracts that give traders the right to buy or sell an underlying asset at a specific price on or before a specified date. Day trading options involves opening and closing options positions within the same trading day, taking advantage of small price movements in the underlying asset. 

Options offer more liquidity than certain stocks, enable easier risk hedging, require less initial capital and allow for leveraging trades. These factors make them useful for day traders. While it can be a complex and risky trading strategy, with proper education, discipline and risk management, day trading options can help experienced traders to generate significant profits. Benzinga explores the basics of day trading options, including the benefits, risks, and considerations for getting started.

How to Day Trade Options

Options day trading takes a similar approach to other securities, including stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), indices and futures. Excellent analytical skills, risk management abilities, discipline and a deep understanding of market trends and strategies are vital recipes to success. Following these step-by-step guidelines can help you excel as an option day trader if you're a beginner.

Learn the Basics of Options Trading 

Before you start trading options, you need to understand what they are and how they work. Options trading significantly differs from other forms of trading, so it's essential to learn its fundamentals, including the different types of options (call and put), options products (including stocks, ETFs, futures, indices, and energy), options pricing and how to read an options chain. You can easily access digestible information on blogs, forums, podcasts, video tutorials and ebooks. Options trading, especially day trading, is a complex and risky activity that requires a thorough understanding of the concepts involved; without this, there is a high likelihood of losing your investment.

Choose a Trading Strategy 

When it comes to trading options, you can choose from various strategies, such as long calls and puts, covered calls, straddles, butterflies and spread trading. Your trading strategy significantly impacts your decision-making process, timing and choice of indicators. So you must choose a strategy that aligns with your trading style, risk tolerance and financial goals. A logical and effective options day trading strategy can help you identify potential trades, manage risk and maximize profit while minimizing losses.

Develop a Trading Plan

A trading plan is a comprehensive guide outlining a trader's approach to the markets, including their goals, risk tolerance, trading strategies and money management rules. Your options day trading plan should include your entry and exit points, stop-loss orders, profit targets and the maximum amount of capital you're willing to risk on any single trade. Developing a sound trading plan streamlines your goal realization and risk management. It helps you make more informed decisions based on your trading strategy.

Set up a Brokerage Account 

To trade options, you'll need to set up a brokerage account with a reputable broker that offers options trading. With numerous online brokers available, finding one that meets your needs might be challenging. Consider brokerages with transparent fee structures, zero commissions and no hidden fees. Paying high brokerage fees for each trade can significantly impact your profits in day trading options. Some brokerages offer cash and margin accounts.  

A cash account allows trading only with the capital you have, while a margin account provides borrowing options. Most undercapitalized traders may prefer a margin account since it allows them to sell an option without owning the underlying assets. So it makes sense to compare brokerages to see what account types are available and the requirements for opening each account. 

Review the available trading platforms. Day trading needs lightning-fast execution, which is only possible via robust trading platforms. The best platforms offer advanced charting capabilities, mobile and tablet apps for on-the-go users and other cutting-edge technical analysis tools that streamline fast decision-making and trade execution. Lastly, ensure your chosen brokers offer excellent customer service. 

Fund Your Trading Account 

Once you've opened your brokerage account, you'll need to fund it with the amount of capital you're comfortable trading with. Invest funds you can afford to lose. To day trade options on a margin account; you must meet the $25,000 minimum equity stipulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). 

 Analyze the Market and Enter a Trade

Now that you've funded your brokerage account, it's time to enter a trade. But before that, you'll need to analyze the market and identify potential trading opportunities. This process involves conducting technical and fundamental analysis to identify trends, patterns and other factors affecting the underlying asset's price. Once you identify a potential trading opportunity, you can place your trade. This process involves buying or selling options contracts through your brokerage account. Be sure to follow your trading plan and stick to your risk management rules.

Monitor Your Trade; Review and Refine Your Strategy 

After placing trades, you must monitor them closely to ensure they perform as expected. This step involves tracking the underlying asset's price, watching for changes in market conditions and adjusting your trades as needed. Regularly review your trades and refine your strategy accordingly. This process includes analyzing your trades to determine what worked and what didn't and making necessary adjustments to your trading plan and strategy over time.

Benefits of Options Trading

Options trading offers numerous benefits. Here are some of the core benefits. 

Potentially higher returns: Options provide more significant profit potential than some underlying assets. For instance, if a stock price rises from $25 to $50, that would be a 100% gain if you owned the shares. But if you held a call option with a price per contract that increased from $1 to $5, you would get a 500% gain. By using leverage, your potential profit in options day trading can be highly significant compared to trading stocks alone. However, higher potential returns often come with higher risks.

Minimal initial investment and low-cost strategies: Options trading allows for smaller initial investments than trading stocks alone. This benefit can make it easier for beginner traders to start with limited capital. In most cases, the cost of buying an option contract is also lower than that of outrightly buying the underlying assets, meaning you can access the same number of shares at a lower price. 

Flexibility and diversity: Options trading can provide greater flexibility than trading stocks alone. You can use options to buy or sell assets at a specific price in the future and also use them to take advantage of price movements in either direction. And because options trading allows for cheaper products and more leverage for your capital, you benefit from more investment opportunities. You don't even need to exercise your option to profit from it. 

Liquidity and mutual benefits: Option products are liquid, meaning you can buy and sell them quickly and easily. Unlike underlying assets, you don't have to waste time looking for buyers. This feature makes it easier to enter and exit trades quickly and efficiently. When combined with stocks, options trading can bring more excellent benefits as you can sell your options to generate income from the stocks you already own.

Hedging Instruments: Options can be used as a form of risk management to protect against potential losses. For example, you can use options to limit your losses if the market moves against your position. 

Risks of Options Trading

Despite its numerous benefits, day trading options has many inherent disadvantages.

High risk: Because of its highly speculative nature, options trading involves considerable risk. The prices of options can change rapidly, and their value can decline quickly, resulting in losses for the trader. It is not uncommon for traders to lose all or a significant portion of their investment. 

Complicated strategies: Options trading necessitates your understanding of various concepts such as strike price, expiration date and options pricing models, among others. Additionally, you must be familiar with different types of options, such as call and put options, and the strategies used to trade them. These complexities make it more challenging to predict the behavior of the underlying asset and, as a result, increase the risk involved in trading options.

Limited time: Options have an expiration date, which can limit the time you have to make a profit on your investment. The loss of time value can undermine the gain of an option even if the underlying instrument's price increases.

High volatility and fees: The value of options can be highly volatile, making them difficult to predict and potentially resulting in significant losses. Options trading can incur substantial fees, including commissions and other charges, which can affect your profits. While a few brokers offer discounts and zero commission, most full-service brokers charge higher fees. You also have to factor in the margin requirement, which can be expensive. 

Wide bid/ask spread: The bid-ask spread in the options market can vary. However, it is generally wider than the bid-ask spread for stocks because of the lower trading volume and liquidity of many options contracts. Fluctuations in bid-ask spread can reach up to half a point, potentially decreasing your profit.

Compare Options Day Trading Platforms 

Benzinga reviews the best platforms for day trading options.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q

Can you day trade with options?

A

Yes, it is possible to day trade options and make a significant profit. Still, it can be risky and requires a solid understanding of options trading strategies.

Q

Is options trading better than day trading?

A

Whether options trading is better than day trading depends on individual preferences and goals, as both options trading and day trading have advantages and disadvantages.

About Chika Uchendu

Chika Uchendu is an investing writer and investment platform analyst passionate about helping people learn more about managing their finances, making informed investment decisions, and navigating the complex landscape of investment platforms to find the best options for their financial goals and needs. He has over 8 years of experience writing compelling articles for various reputable publishers across diverse topics. When he’s not writing content, he’s wrangling and analyzing data to help businesses make informed decisions.