fbpx

How to Trade Options

Benzinga Money is a reader-supported publication. We may earn a commission when you click on links in this article. Learn more.

What are Options?

An option is a contract to buy or sell a stock, usually 100 shares of the stock per contract, at a pre-negotiated price (also called the “strike price”) and by a certain date (also called the “exercise date”). Read on to learn how to trade options.

Elements in Options Trades

You must decide, in an options trade, the following:

  • Which direction is the stock going to move?
  • How high or low will the stock price move from its current price?
  • How will the stock move during a particular time frame?

Types of Options Trades

There are two types of options you can buy or sell: call option and a put option.

Call option

This option allows the buyer to buy the contract at the specified price on or before the expiry date and is exercised by the buyer when the market goes above the strike price. Within the call option, there are two possibilities:

  • Buy call: The buyer will buy the contract as it would yield maximum profits and limited loss, which is equivalent to the premium paid to the seller initially.
  • Sell call: It is the obligation of the seller to sell when the buyer exercises his/her call option.

Put option

The buyer can sell the contract at the specified price when the market price moves below the strike price. Within the put option, there are a couple of possibilities:

  • Buy put: The buyer has the right to sell the contract when he/she thinks the prices will fall. He/she can sell the contract at his/her own will.
  • Sell put: The seller has the obligation to buy the contract. The seller enters in such a contract anticipating earnings.

Understand the Risks of Options Trading

Options can be purchased speculatively or as a hedge against losses. Speculative purchases allow for the potential to make a lot of money, but only if traders can correctly predict the magnitude, timing and direction of the underlying securities’ price movement. Doing this incorrectly can result in large losses and high trade commissions. Novice traders, beware.

Options Trading Terminology

If you’re a new options trader, you’ll quickly realize there are lots of new, potentially bewildering terms. These terms also include some already covered (it’s important to review!):

  • Holder: A trader who has bought an option.
  • Writer: A trader who has sold an option.
  • Strike price: The price at which the asset will be bought or sold.
  • Expiration date: The already-agreed upon date by which the option owner must exercise his right to buy or sell the underlying security. After this date, the option expires.
  • In the money: The market price of the asset is higher than the strike price (in the case of a call) or lower than the strike price (in the case of a put).
  • Out of the money: The market price of the asset is lower than the strike price (in the case of a call) or higher than the strike (in the case of a put).

Choose a Broker

Low commissions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to choosing the best broker for options. Traders need to consider hidden fees, such as platform fees and data fees. Different traders have different skill levels, trading strategies and needs.

Options trading can be complicated, and beginners need to make sure to find a platform with plenty of educational resources and guidance. Advanced traders need to look for professional-grade features and research. Check out some of our favorite online stock brokers below.

JP Morgan Chase
Commissions
$0
Account Min
$0
Compare Brokers securely through JP Morgan Chase’s website
Commissions
$0
Account Min
$0
1 Minute Review

Chase You Invest is the retail brokerage arm of JP Morgan Chase, the largest bank in the United States. While most of the firm’s products are targeted toward wealthy clientele, You Invest gives novice investors a chance to learn about markets, select the best securities and plan for future goals like retirement. No futures, forex, or margin trading is available, so the only way for traders to find leverage is through options. 

Not all investors will appreciate the basic setup and simplistic trading suggestions, but plenty more want to learn about markets but just don’t know where to get started. Chase You Invest provides that starting point, even if most clients eventually grow out of it.

Best For
  • Investors using Chase banking products
  • Mobile traders
  • Retirement savers
Pros
  • Easy to navigate
  • Functional mobile app
  • Cash promotion for new accounts
Cons
  • No forex or futures trading
  • Limited account types
  • No margin offered
Commissions
$0 for stocks and ETFs broker assited orders an additional $6
Account Min
$500 to open an account
Get started securely through eOption’s website
Commissions
$0 for stocks and ETFs broker assited orders an additional $6
Account Min
$500 to open an account
1 Minute Review

eOption is a stock, fund and option trading platform that focuses on low-cost options trading. Its options trading is very affordable at just $0.10 per contract and $1.99 per transaction. The broker also offers a comprehensive options trading course that’s free and educational for both novice investors and advanced traders alike. eOption’s platform is less usable than its competitors, especially for new traders.

Futures and forex trades aren’t currently available, daily market updates are full of jargon and the platform includes very few intuitive features and explainers. Customer service options are also lackluster, and mutual fund transactions are expensive. While eOption might be a great choice for options traders, we recommend other platforms for beginner traders primarily interested in stock and ETF investing.

Best For
  • Options traders looking for low-cost options contracts
  • Beginner and advanced traders looking for options education
  • Advanced traders who don’t need a lot of platform guidance
Pros
  • Unbeatable options contracts pricing
  • Mobile app that mirrors capabilities of desktop app
  • Free and comprehensive options education
Cons
  • Confusing platform has limited assistance tools
  • Expensive mutual funds and bond trading
  • Limited stock and general investing education
  • Lackluster customer service options
Commissions
$0
Account Min
$0
Compare Brokers securely through eTrade’s website
Commissions
$0
Account Min
$0
1 Minute Review

E*TRADE is an online discount trading house that offers brokerage and banking services to individuals and businesses. One of the first brokers to embrace online trading, E*TRADE not only survived both the dot-com bubble and Recession — it thrived. You can choose from two different platforms (one basic, one advanced). E*TRADE is a suitable broker for traders of most skill levels, whether you want to buy mutual funds and hold them for decades or dabble in options swing trading. E*TRADE offers a library of research and education materials to help you out.

Best For
  • Active traders
  • Derivatives traders
  • Retirement savers
Pros
  • Sophisticated trading platforms
  • Wide range of tradable assets
  • Exceptional customer service
Cons
  • Limited currency trading
  • Higher margin rates than competitors
  • No paper trading on its standard platform
TD Ameritrade
Commissions
$0 $6.95 for OTC Stocks
Account Min
$0
Get started securely through TD Ameritrade’s website
Commissions
$0 $6.95 for OTC Stocks
Account Min
$0
1 Minute Review

This publicly listed discount broker, which is in existence for over four decades, is service-intensive, offering intuitive and powerful investment tools. Especially, with equity investing, a flat fee is charged, with the firm claiming that it charges no trade minimum, no data fees, and no platform fees. Though it is pricier than many other discount brokers, what tilts the scales in its favor is its well-rounded service offerings and the quality and value it offers its clients.

Best For
  • Novice investors
  • Retirement savers
  • Day traders
Pros
  • World-class trading platforms
  • Detailed research reports and Education Center
  • Assets ranging from stocks and ETFs to derivatives like futures and options
Cons
  • Thinkorswim can be overwhelming to inexperienced traders
  • Derivatives trading more costly than some competitors
  • Expensive margin rates
TradeStation
Commissions
$0
Account Min
$0
Get started securely through TradeStation’s website
Commissions
$0
Account Min
$0
1 Minute Review

TradeStation is for advanced traders who need a comprehensive platform. The brokerage offers an impressive range of investable assets as frequent and professional traders appreciate its wide range of analysis tools. TradeStation’s app is also equally effective, offering full platform capabilities.

Best For
  • Advanced traders
  • Options and futures traders
  • Active stock traders
Pros
  • Comprehensive trading platform and professional-grade tools
  • Wide range of tradable securities
  • Fully-operational mobile app
Cons
  • Confusing pricing structure to leave new traders with a weak understanding of what they pay
  • Cluttered layout to make navigating TradeStation’s platform more difficult than it should be
Commissions
$0 per trade
Account Min
$0 to open an account
Compare Brokers securely through Robinhood’s website
Commissions
$0 per trade
Account Min
$0 to open an account
1 Minute Review

Robinhood is the broker for traders who want a simple, easy-to-understand layout without all the bells and whistles other brokers offer. Though its trading options and account types are limited, even an absolute beginner can quickly master Robinhood’s intuitive and streamlined platform. On the other hand, more advanced traders might be frustrated by Robinhood’s lack of technical analysis tools, a feature that’s now nearly universal across other platforms.

Best For
  • Beginner traders
  • Mobile traders
Pros
  • Streamlined, easy-to-understand interface
  • Mobile app with full capabilities
  • Can buy and sell cryptocurrency
Cons
  • Almost no trading analysis tools available
  • Only taxable brokerage accounts available
  • No option to open a retirement account
  • No access to mutual funds, forex or futures trading
  • Limited customer service
Commissions
$0 when you trade stocks, ETFs, options, and mutual funds online
Account Min
$0
Get started securely through Firstrade’s website
Commissions
$0 when you trade stocks, ETFs, options, and mutual funds online
Account Min
$0
1 Minute Review

Easy-to-use and quick to master, Firstrade offers new and veteran traders alike a simple way to start investing with rock-bottom pricing. Firstrade’s platform is simple and streamlined, and it extends this convenience to its mobile app. The company’s $0 commissions on stocks, ETFs, mutual funds and even options make Firstrade especially appealing for frequent traders. Firstrade also offers margin trading, though rates are a bit more expensive than some competitors. Firstrade also currently doesn’t offer access to futures or forex trading, and some more advanced traders may dislike the broker’s simple platform.

Best For
  • New traders looking for a simple platform layout
  • Native Chinese speakers seeking research and education tools in Chinese
  • Mobile traders who needs a secure and well-designed app
Pros
  • Simple platform easy enough for even complete novices
  • Quick Bar tool for easy trading throughout the day
  • Free access to Morningstar trading reports and other news in both English and Chinese
  • Secure mobile app with enhanced security and trading features
Cons
  • Simple brokerage platform doesn’t include as many charting tools as competitors
  • No access to futures or forex markets
Interactive Brokers
Commissions
$0.005 per share minimum $1 and maximum 0.5% of trade value; volume discount available
Account Min
$0
Get started securely through Interactive Brokers’s website
Commissions
$0.005 per share minimum $1 and maximum 0.5% of trade value; volume discount available
Account Min
$0
1 Minute Review

Interactive Brokers is a comprehensive trading platform that gives you access to a massive range of securities at affordable prices. You can buy assets from all around the world from the comfort of your home or office with access to over 135 global markets. Options, futures, forex and fund trading are also available, and most traders won’t pay a commission on any purchase or sale.  

IBKR is geared primarily toward experienced traders and investors but now with the availability of free trades with IBKR Lite, casual traders can also acclimate to IBKR’s offerings.

Best For
  • Access to foreign markets
  • Detailed mobile app that makes trading simple
  • Wide range of available account types and tradable assets
Pros
  • Comprehensive, quick desktop platform
  • Mobile app mirrors full capabilities of desktop version
  • Access to massive range of tradable assets
  • Low margin rates
  • Easy-to-use and enhanced screening options are better than ever
Cons
  • Beginner investors might prefer a broker that offers a bit more hand-holding and educational resources

Before choosing the right broker, each trader needs to consider his or her trading style and which features are most important in maximizing profitability. In addition, be sure to avoid scam trading sites and platforms.

Getting approval from your broker

Brokerage houses will have to give you permission to trade options; they set limits based on how much money and experience you have before they’ll allow you to trade.

Paper Trading for Options

Paper trading is an important step for anyone serious about making a profit in the options market. It’s a way for beginning traders to perfect a trading plan before trading with real money.

That said, paper trading cannot be approached lightly! It’s possible for new options traders to not take fake money seriously, so they experiment in ways they might not with real money. Therefore, it’s possible for two things to happen:

  • They win irresponsibly, believe the market is easy, throw in real money and lose it all.
  • They lose irresponsibly, believe the market is a scam, and never try again.

It’s important to treat paper trading as if it’s real money, but some traders argue that paper trading can never replace the emotions you’ll experience when you’re using your own money.

Advanced Trading Options

Once you’re familiar with the ins and outs of limit orders and execution prices, you’ll likely be ready for advanced trading options. In addition, you’ll be experienced enough to know to reevaluate your strategy periodically, learn from your mistakes and also, your successes. There are other, more advanced trading strategies you can look into, including:

  • Straddle options: These provide equal profit potential on either side of an underlying price movement.
  • Strip options: These are a market neutral bearish strategy and it provides double the profit potential on downward price movement compared to equivalent upward price move.
  • The Greeks: Metrics, including delta, gamma, theta and vega, that advanced options traders use. These are only a few advanced terms; there are so many more that encapsulate all there is to the complex world of trading options.

Learn More About Options Trading

More complex than trading stocks, it’s necessary to educate yourself. Take classes, pay attention to forums and blogs, watch tutorial videos and download books on trading.

Track the news and know what’s going on in the world economy, and finally, talk to a real trader and ask him/her for guidance.

Seek a mentor through your brokerage firm for guidance if you’re a beginner options trader. It’ll be instrumental to your success as a trader, as there is lots of misinformation online. Many brokers have thorough education on options education. It’s complicated, so you shouldn’t go it alone. For more information and further education, visit the official website of the Options Clearing Corporation, or OCC.

If you want to take a deeper dive into options trading and strategy, we always recommend reading a great options book or taking a class from the pros – like Market Rebellion’s professional trading courses.

Benzinga's #1 Breakout Stock Every Month

Looking for stocks that are about to breakout for gains of 10%, 15%, even 20% potentially or more? The only problem is finding these stocks takes hours per day. Fortunately, Benzinga's Breakout Opportunity Newsletter that could potentially break out each and every month. You can today with this special offer:

Click here to get our #1 breakout stock every month.

Compare Online Brokers
Broker Commission Account Min Get Started

$0 $0 Learn More

$0 $6.95 for OTC Stocks $0 Learn More

$0 $0 Learn More

FREE $0 Learn More

$0 $0 Learn More