Options are very popular trading instruments in the financial markets. They can help you make handsome money in the quickest of times. Learn here what are options, various types of options – call and put options.


Options make a versatile trading tool. They are becoming more and more popular among the beginners and the retail traders in the stock markets. Buying and selling of options on stock exchanges is called as options trading.

Options trading is done for speculative trading to make money by buying low and selling high or for portfolio hedging against major market corrections. Thus, options traders can trade options just like stock trading and make money.

Options offer a lot of advantages to options traders. They allow trading stocks in big quantities by paying very small amount of money. The profits potential is much higher for options buyers with small risk involved. That is the reason for the popularity of options among the retail traders and the beginners in trading.

what are options

Although options have the potential to yield big profits with small amount invested, the risk in options trading is also equally big. If not done diligently and with proper plan, you may lose your money fast. So, it is important that you know what are options and how options work before you go for options trading.

What Are Options

Options are derivatives similar to futures. That means they are derived from an underlying asset. Underlying security can be anything ; like stocks, currencies, commodities, market indices etc. The value of options changes with change in price of the underlying asset. This property of options is used in options trading to make money.

The difference between stocks and options is that buying stocks gives you an ownership into the company of concerned stocks, eligibility to bonus shares announced by the company or any dividends declared by the company from time to time as long as you hold the stocks. Buying options does not give you any such ownerships. You can get dividends, of course, if you decide to exercise your options contract before the dividend declaration. Ownership does not mean that we have any significant say in business decisions of the company but, of course, we have the voting rights as shareholders.

Options work in the form of contracts. These contracts can be weekly or monthly (fixed by the stock exchanges) having weekly or monthly expiry. After the expiry date, the value of the contract becomes zero (we will learn about it lower down the order under ‘contract expiry date’).

Buying an option contract gives the buyer of the option the right but not the obligation to buy or sell the underlying stock at a predetermined price at or before the predefined period of time. A call option gives the buyer of the option to buy an underlying asset at a predetermined price on or before the contract expiry date. Similarly, put option gives the buyer of the option to sell the underlying asset at a predetermined price before the contract expiry date.

If a trader has bought an option and it increases in value after some time, the trader may choose to sell back the option, close the trade and pocket the profits. Otherwise, the option trade can be carried along till expiry date in expectation of more profits and either closed before the expiry date or let it at expire on the expiry day at the last traded price. However, the trader can also opt to exercise the option contract. Exercising option contract means to apply for the delivery of the underlying stocks before the contract expiry date.

Depending upon the option to exercise and expiry of the options contract, options are of two types – American options and European options.

American options can be exercised anytime before the contract expiry date. American options are very popular among the traders. The reason is that the traders can buy underlying stocks though options contract by paying small option premium and keep it as long as before the expiry date. Near the dividend announcement date by the company, they can exercise their option and take the delivery of the underlying stocks and become eligible for dividend payout.

European options do not have such luxury for the options traders. These options can be exercised only on the day of contract expiry. So, the traders can not take the delivery of the stocks if the dividend payout date is earlier than the contract expiry date.

You can understand options better by thinking like we made a bet about the possible move in the price of a stock in the next few days. If the stock moves as per our expectation, we will make profits and close our bet. If the stock moves against our expectation, we lose our bet. Now, we have the option to either exit early with some of our bet money left or we can let all our money go and not close our bet. That is our obligation.

Options are ‘long only’ type of trading tool. That means, If you expect the stock price to rise in short term, you can buy an option and make profits from the stock price rise. But if you expect the stock price to fall in short term, you can again buy an option and make profits from the stock price fall.

Now which option to buy when we expect the stock price to rise or decline, this divides the options into two types.

Types Of Options

Till now, we have learnt what are the options and the basic things about an option. Now we move on to types of options.

Options are of two types : call option and put option

What Is A Call Option

By definition, a call option gives the buyer of the option the right to buy the underlying security at a specific price on or before the specific time period.

If a trader is expecting prices to go up for a stock, he/she can simply buy a call option. This is equivalent to buying stocks which the trader will want to sell when the stock prices increase. As the stock price rises, the call option price also increases.

When the underlying stock price increases, the trade may sell (exercise) his call option and close the trade. The difference between selling and buying the call option is his/her profit.

Thus, when we have bullish view on any underlying, we can buy a call option.

What Is A Put Option

By definition, a put option gives the buyer of the option the right to sell the underlying security at a specific price on or before the specific time.

As the stock prices fall, the price of a put option increases. Buying a put option is like short selling a stock in margin trading. However, with put option, you can carry forward your short position to next day unlike margin trading which is only available for intraday trading.

If a trader predicts that a stock is going to rise in very short period of time (few days), he/she can either buy stocks or buy call options. If the fall in stock prices is expected in short term, he/she can simply buy a put option.

Each option has some important components which you must know to learn options trading. These are five components:

  • Current market price of underlying
  • Contract expiry date
  • Strike price
  • Lot size
  • Current option price

To make it easy to learn option trading, we will use an example.

We have taken a snap shot from www.icicidirect.com below which shows the options contract details for Reliance Industries (RELIND) stock. (See the following figure below)

Components Of Options

Some of these components are direct determinants of option prices. They are current market price of the underlying, the expiry date and the strike price. Understanding about them is very important for options trading.

Current Market Price of Underlying

The price of option depends upon the current market price of the underlying. As the price of underlying stock or index changes, so does the price of options. The increase in stock price leads to increase in call option prices while fall in put option prices. on the other hand, fall in stock price leads to increase in put option prices while decrease in call option prices.

The current market price or the spot price for the Reliance stock is 1497.95 as seen in the below image.

Contract Expiry Date

Options operate in weekly or monthly contracts. At the end of the week or month, a contract expires. At the time of expiry, the prices of all the options become zero.

Depending upon the liquidity or trading volumes in a security, the stock exchange may provide contracts for 1 month, 2 months or 3 months expiry.

The contract expiry date in case of our example stock is Feb 27, 2020 for the February contract (image below).

What Are Options

We can opt to exit the trade with the profits or the losses whenever we wish till the expiry of the contract. If we don’t close our position till the date of expiry, it shall get expire at the last traded price of the last trading day.

On expiry, the value of all out of money options becomes zero. In the money options expire at a value of difference of stock price and strike price (keep reading).

Strike Price

Strike prices are the reference prices for any contract. You can buy or sell any particular strike price option for trading.

Multiple strike prices are available around the current market price of the underlying. You can trade with any strike price, depending upon the trading plan.

For the stock of Reliance, multiple strikes from 1180 to 1700 are available for call options. That is also fixed by the stock exchanges. Stock exchanges also keep on enabling or disabling the new strikes as the stock keeps on making quick moves in any direction. For example, if the stock moves from spot price of 1497 to, say, 1700 due to any sudden move, the strikes around 1700 will get enabled.

The options can be of three types depending upon the strike price. If you do not understand it at this time, you may keep on reading further and come back after finishing the article.

What Is In The Money Option (ITM)

An option with strike price less than the current market price of the underlying for a call option and strike price higher than the current market price of the underlying for a put option is what is in the money option.

what are options
What is in the money option and out of the money option

In the above example, the current price for Reliance is 1497. Thus all the call options with strikes below 1497, that is, 1480 and lower are in the money options.

For put options, in the money options are with strikes above 1497, that is, 1500 and higher.

What Is At The Money Option (ATM)

At the money options (ATM) are the strikes which are very near to the current price of the underlying stocks or index.

In the above example, the 1500 strike call option is at the money option. For the put options, the strike lower than 1497, that is, 1480 shall be an at the money option.

What Is Out Of The Money Option (OTM)

Out of the money options (OTM) are the options with strikes far away from the current market price of the underlying.

In the above example, 1520, 1540 and higher are the out of the money call options. For put options, strikes 1480, 1460 and lower are all out of the money put options.

Lot Size

For stock trading, you can trade with any number of stocks ; be it one stock, 10 stocks, 50 stocks or 100 or any number (depending upon money in your account).

However, with options trading, we can trade with fixed number of units only. This fixed number is called as a ‘Lot’. Different stock options have different number of Lot size. In some countries, the Lot size is fixed to 100 for all stocks.

For Reliance stock, in the image above, the Lot size fixed is 500.

Option Premium

Options trade on the stock exchanges at a certain price. This price determined on the basis of current market price of the underlying and several other important factors affecting the option prices. This is what is option premium of that stock option.

The two most important constituents of option premium are the time value and the intrinsic value of an option. It is very important to learn about all these determinants of option premium before you opt for options trading.

Different option strikes are available at different market price. The strikes which are below or closer to the spot price of the underlying stock have higher prices. The farther strikes have lower prices. But that does not make the farther strike options as cheap options to buy.

Final Word

Options make a very good trading tool if used diligently, with proper research and discipline. You can make money fast with options trading with small risk taken. But it is very important to understand what are options, how options work and how to trade options if you want to succeed.

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