Options Chain: Definition & How to Read an Options Chain

Options Chain: Definition & How to Read an Options Chain

An options chain is like a menu of all the available options contracts for a specific security. The options chain, or options matrix, shows the listed puts, calls, the expiration dates, strike prices, and volume and pricing information for the underlying asset, within a given maturity.

An options chain provides detailed quote and price information, and is usually divided into calls vs. puts and categorized by expiration date.

Understanding the Options Chain

To understand what an options chain is, you first need to understand how options trading works. With this knowledge, you can build options trading strategies and attempt to profit in the market.

Options may allow you to profit on movements in the price of an underlying asset that you don’t own directly, by giving you the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell a stock or other asset at a certain price (the strike price) at a certain date in the future (expiration date). But options trading strategies can be quite risky and are typically undertaken by experienced investors.

While options can get quite complex, there are basically two kinds of options: calls vs. puts.

Calls are options that allow you to buy a stock at a preset price (the strike price) until some point in the future (the expiration date), while puts give you the ability to sell an option at a specific price until the expiration.

Call Options

A call option is a contract that typically allows an investor to buy 100 shares of an underlying stock or other security at the strike price. A call option can be appealing because it gives an investor a potential way to profit from a stock’s increase in price without having to pay the full price for 100 shares.

The investor pays what’s known in options terminology as the “premium” on each share, which is typically much less than the current price of the stock.

Put Options

By contrast, a put option is a contract that allows the investor to sell shares at a certain price at a specified time in the future. The seller of the put option has the obligation to buy the shares from the put buyer, if the put buyer chooses to exercise the option.

If call options are a way to profit from a stock going up in price without having to own the stock itself, then put options are a way to profit from the fall of a stock’s price without having to short the stock (i.e. borrow the shares and then buy them back at a lower price).

In-the-Money and Out-of-the-Money Options

Options can be “in the money” (ITM) or “out of the money” (OTM). The terms refer to the relationship between the options strike price and the market value of the underlying asset.

Knowing the difference between being in or out of the money allows the options holder to gauge whether they might see a profit from their option, and to decide if and when to exercise the option.

•   A call option would be in the money if the strike price was lower than the current market price of the underlying security. An investor holding such a contract could exercise the option to buy the security at a discount and sell it for a profit right away.

•   An out-of-the-money call option would be when you purchase an options contract that would allow you to buy a stock at a price higher than it is trading at right now. That means the option doesn’t have any intrinsic value. Any value the option has is based on the possibility that the price of the underlying security will go up in the future.

The reverse applies to puts. A put would be in the money if the strike price is higher than the current market price of the underlying security, and out of the money if the strike price is lower.

What Is an Options Chain?

Option chains are basically charts that list different options and the information that differentiates them. The options chain can vary, depending on who is providing it, but some of the terms can include:

•   the strike price

•   last price

•   trading volume

•   the bid

•   the ask

•   net change

Once you understand basic options concepts like calls vs. puts, an options chain will be pretty easy to read.

Then you can move on to more complicated options trading strategies like options trading straddles.

Finally, user-friendly options trading is here.*

Trade options with SoFi Invest on an easy-to-use, intuitively designed online platform.

Options Chain Example

Here is a hypothetical example of an options chain for Company ABC.

Calls for January 27, 2023

Contract name

Last Trade Date

Strike

Last Price

Bid

Ask

Change

Volume

Open Interest

ABC230127C00240000 2022-12-16 3:37PM EST 240.00 15.22 12.95 15.00 -2.58 15 54
ABC230127C00245000 2022-12-16 3:53PM EST 245.00 11.00 9.10 12.15 -3.33 68 111
ABC230127C00250000 2022-12-16 3:59PM EST 250.00 8.80 8.20 10.80 -2.55 96 175

Options chains aren’t standardized, so your options chain provider may include more or less information.

Additional information could include more detail on price fluctuations, such as percentage price changes. Some sites include information on the characteristics of the option itself, such as implied volatility.

Reading the Options Chain

Once you understand the terms listed in the options chain, it’s relatively easy to decode. Reading from left to right in the hypothetical options chain above:

•   Contract name: Just as the fictional ABC company has a stock ticker, options have an alphanumeric identifier. For instance, “ABC230127C00240000” refers to an option to buy ABC shares by January 27, 2023 for $240. In other words, this is a call option with a strike price of $240 that expires on January 27, 2023.

•   Last trade date: The date and time when the option was last traded.

•   Strike: The price at which the option may be bought (calls) or sold (puts) before the expiration date.

•   Last price: The most recently traded or posted price of the option.

•   Bid: The highest price someone is willing to pay for the option.

•   Ask: The lowest price someone is willing to sell the option.

•   Change: How the price has changed since the close of the previous trading session.

•   Volume: The number of options contracts traded the most recent day that trading has been open.

•   Open interest: These are the options contracts that haven’t been closed — meaning exercised (i.e. the stock has been bought or sold at the pre-arranged price) or otherwise settled.

How Options Chains Can Help You Trade Options

Options chains are a key tool in trading options. How they directly lead to options trading depends on how the specific brokerage you use utilize options chains, and how certain factors might fit into a trader’s overall strategy.

For example, an experienced trader would be able to gauge the market in terms of price movements and higher and lower liquidity. These are key points to know for efficient trade executions and potential profitability.

For example, a trader wanting to assess market conditions for the first call option in the matrix above, might consider the last price, the bid, ask, and net change.

Any brokerage that allows you to trade options will provide the type of information seen in an options chain, as it is necessary for options to be priced and for investors and traders to make informed decisions about options trading.

Brokerages typically also have various deposit and educational or knowledge requirements for options trading as well.

The Takeaway

Options are highly complex derivatives, and investors need to be skilled and experienced enough to digest a series of critical data points in order to have an effective options strategy. One tool that can be effective for traders is using an options chain, or options matrix.

An options chain is similar to a master list of available options contracts for a specific security (the underlying). It shows the puts, calls, expiration dates, strike prices, and volume and pricing information for the underlying asset. By reading these charts, traders can decide which options fit their strategy.

If you’re ready to try your hand at options trading, SoFi can help. You can trade options online from the SoFi mobile app or through the web platform. And if you have any questions, SoFi offers educational resources about options to learn more.

For a limited time, opening and funding an Active Invest account gives you the opportunity to get up to $1,000 in the stock of your choice.


SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Options involve risks, including substantial risk of loss and the possibility an investor may lose the entire amount invested in a short period of time. Before an investor begins trading options they should familiarize themselves with the Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options . Tax considerations with options transactions are unique, investors should consult with their tax advisor to understand the impact to their taxes.
Claw Promotion: Customer must fund their Active Invest account with at least $25 within 30 days of opening the account. Probability of customer receiving $1,000 is 0.028%. See full terms and conditions.

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Introduction to Options Volume and Open Interest

Introduction to Options Volume and Open Interest

In the world of options trading, the investor is given constant information about what is happening in the options market. Two of those pieces of information are Options Volume and Open Interest.

Options Volume represents all of the transactions made during a trading session updated in real-time.

Open Interest represents the number of open contracts at the start of each trading session and is updated once per day prior to the market opening.

How Is Option Volume Calculated?

Option Volume is different from stock volume in some fundamental ways. When you’re investing in stocks, volume represents shares trading hands. Typically trading volumes in stocks are far smaller in scale than the total shares available in a stock.

Options volume, on the other hand, can very often exceed the total contracts outstanding represented by Open Interest.

Options Volume is calculated in real-time after every transaction. This information is typically reported within the options chain and will be updated as frequently as your particular brokerage and account provides.

Every transaction is counted.

If you buy to open 10 calls, volume increases by 10 during the trading session.

If you then sell these calls to a second investor, volume increases by 10.

If this second investor closes these 10 calls, volume increases by 10.

Recommended: Popular Options Trading Terminology

How Is Open Interest Calculated?

Open Interest is calculated the same way for options trading as it is for futures trading. This information is also reported within the options chain, however it is updated once daily prior to the market opening and will not change over the course of a trading session.

Open interest represents all contracts that remain open and nets out trades from the previous session that offset.

Therefore using the same trades from above:

If you buy to open 10 calls, open interest does not change during the trading session.

If you then sell these calls to a second investor, open interest does not change.

If this second investor then closes these 10 calls, open interest does not change.

However, at the end of the session the Options Clearing Corporation (OCC) nets out any offsetting trades and reports simply the remaining open contracts.

In this example, since the options were opened and closed on the same day, and despite having changed hands, the net effect on Open Interest is zero.

What Do Option Volume and Open Interest Indicate About Options?

As far as assessing what these two data points indicate, it depends on whether you consider yourself a “fundamental” trader or a “technical” trader.

•   Traders who use fundamental analysis believe in analyzing company and market data to determine what is happening in the markets. They look at corporate metrics such as profits, operating margins, debt ratios, etc, as well as some limited market data.

•   Technical traders primarily focus on market data and use it to predict market sentiment and price movements.

Fundamental Analysis

Fundamental traders look at the Open Interest as an indicator of liquidity in the market. And if you dig into the typical options chain, you’ll see that higher Open Interest corresponds to lower bid-ask spreads.

These two factors taken together, result in more rapid order filling and increase the likelihood of better, i.e., more competitive, pricing.

The fundamental trader looks at Options Volume as a first indication of cash flows in and out of the option. However, these cash flows won’t be confirmed until the end of the day when a comparison between Open Interest changes from the previous day will confirm this analysis.

Increasing Open Interest shows cash moving into that option.

Recommended: What Are Calls vs Puts?

Finally, user-friendly options trading is here.*

Trade options with SoFi Invest on an easy-to-use, intuitively designed online platform.

Technical Analysis

Technical traders also look at Open Interest and Options Volume as indicators of liquidity and cash flows, but their analysis doesn’t stop there.

Technical traders look at these increased cash flows and liquidity improvements and believe that the strength in the Options Volume and Open Interest indicate confirmation of the trends occurring in the price of the underlying asset.

For example, if the underlying asset is seeing price increases and call volumes and Open Interest are also increasing, then the technical trader sees confirmation of the trend and these factors reinforce the likelihood of the trend continuing.

Conversely, if the Options Volume and Open Interest are changing at a slower pace, this may indicate that the previously existing trends in the underlying market – whether up or down – may be coming to an end.

Technical Analysis, Other

Although the following phenomenon falls under technical trading, it should really be its own brand of trading.

Often, you’ll hear experienced options traders talking about spikes in Option Volume and Open Interest as an indication of what the “smart money” is doing, or that “somebody knows something” about a particular company or a particular trade.

Consider this a red flag. First, just because an investor has made a large investment, doesn’t make them “smart.”

Second, why have they made that investment? Is it a single position, or one of a few different types of investments, or a combination trade that you may not know about, and with different investment goals than what you are pursuing.

Finally, the people who made the trades, and those who identify these spikes, typically have access to information and resources the typical investor does not have access to. That means while they might be going into a trade with eyes open, you may not have the same visibility.

Option Volume

Open Interest

Total of all transactions during a trading session Total of all open contracts at the start of a trading session
Updated continuously after every transaction Updated once per day prior to the trading session
Opening a transaction increases the volume Opening a transaction will increase Open Interest
Closing a transaction increases the volume Closing a transaction will decrease Open Interest
Indication of liquidity Indication of liquidity
Indication of Cash Flows Confirmation of Cash Flows

The Takeaway

Options Volume and Open Interest can be useful data points for the options investor.

Depending on your particular investing approach, fundamental versus technical, you may use this information in varying ways to inform your investing decisions.

If you’re ready to try your hand at options trading, You can set up an Active Invest account and trade trade options online from the SoFi mobile app or through the web platform.

And if you have any questions, SoFi offers educational resources about options to learn more. SoFi doesn’t charge commission, and members have access to complimentary financial advice from a professional.

With SoFi, user-friendly options trading is finally here.


Photo credit: iStock/BartekSzewczyk

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Options involve risks, including substantial risk of loss and the possibility an investor may lose the entire amount invested in a short period of time. Before an investor begins trading options they should familiarize themselves with the Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options . Tax considerations with options transactions are unique, investors should consult with their tax advisor to understand the impact to their taxes.
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Leap Options: What Are They? Pros & Cons

Leap Options: What Are They? Pros & Cons

The term “LEAPS” in LEAPS options is actually an acronym, which stands for “Long-term Equity Anticipation Securities.” LEAPS options are long-term options that have an expiration period between one and three years, versus less than a year for standard options.

LEAPS (sometimes called leap options) are derivatives contracts traded on exchanges, and allow investors to utilize less capital than if they were purchasing the underlying asset outright.

Other than the longer-than-normal expiration date, leap options are functionally much like other types of options — they’re contracts that grant the buyer the right to buy or sell an underlying asset at a specific price before its expiration date.

LEAPS Options Defined

Puts, calls, bulls, and bears. For the uninitiated, options terminology offers a steep learning curve. Even those who are familiar with options trading can occasionally find themselves in the weeds, as there are myriad option types and derivatives to keep track of.

LEAPS or leap options are a variation on the basic options contract, and these longer-term instruments may become part of your strategies for trading options.

LEAPS come in two basic flavors: call options and put options. And like shorter-term options, traders pay a premium when buying LEAPS options. Further, LEAPS can be tied to individual stocks or ETFs, as well as market indexes and other types of securities.

Recommended: Options Trading 101

How to Buy LEAPS Options?

Buying LEAPS options is pretty straightforward, assuming you’ve been investing for a bit. Typically, all that’s required is a brokerage account with access to options trading — and that’s something that many, if not most brokerages offer investors.

The process for actually executing a LEAPS option trade will depend on the specific brokerage you use, but it’ll generally involve choosing a put or call option, a strike price, and critically, a long-term expiration date.

Remember, LEAPS options expire more than a year from when they’re purchased, so opting for the longer-term expiration date will differentiate a LEAPS option from a standard option purchase. This may be helpful when considering long-term vs. short-term strategies.

Finally, user-friendly options trading is here.*

Trade options with SoFi Invest on an easy-to-use, intuitively designed online platform.

What Are the Pros & Cons of LEAPS Options?

Like trading other types of options, there are some upsides and downsides to trading and investing with LEAPS options:

What Are the Pros of LEAPS Options?

A big upside to LEAPS is that they have a longer time frame compared to standard options. Thus, they experience less time decay, and theoretically, their values should move more closely with the price movements of the underlying asset.

A less recognized advantage of the longer time frame is that — unlike options that may expire in months, weeks, or even days — the need to constantly oversee the markets and to take advantage of short-term moves is lessened.

LEAPS also tend to cost less than their underlying asset, making them an attractive alternative for some investors.

But perhaps the biggest advantage to LEAPS is they can provide outsized returns, despite the attendant risks, which is what attracts some traders to them in the first place.

What Are the Cons of LEAPS Options?

On the other side of the coin, investors should know that LEAPS can have higher premiums than standard options due to the much higher time value of LEAPS while still remaining cheaper than the underlying asset.

Buying LEAPS, you’ll need to put more money upfront than if you were to purchase shorter term options, risking more of your capital.

LEAPS are also not available for every stock, industry, or index out there (index investing is a separate strategy, but some options are tied to indexes). So, you may not be able to find what you want.

Plus, if you decide to purchase LEAPS options, you could also magnify your losses (just as you can increase your gains), which is something that’s critical to keep in mind. In other words, there are additional risks when investing with LEAPS.

LEAPS Options: Pros and Cons

Pros

Cons

Potentially magnify investing gains Potentially increase investing losses
Costs less than the underlying asset Higher premiums vs. standard options
Value mirrors underlying asset more closely LEAPS may not be available for all assets

Explaining LEAPS Options Trading

How does LEAPS options trading actually work?

Let’s run through an example, and note that trading LEAPS is the same as trading options, but with longer expiration periods:

If you were of the belief that a certain stock, we’ll call it Stock XYZ, was going to experience a decline in value at some point in the next few years, you could use LEAPS options to position yourself accordingly. Specifically, you’d look at buying a LEAPS put option on XYZ with a long-term expiration date.

XYZ is trading at around $55, but again, you think that it will fall. As such, you pay $7.50 for a $45 put that matures more than a year from now.

If XYZ drops in price, you can expect the put to increase in value and you may sell for a profit as you see fit.

OR

You can wait for the XYZ to drop below $37.50 (your break even point = $45 – $7.50 = $37.50) and exercise your option or sell the option. Based on time to expiration and multiple other factors, you can decide which choice is more profitable.

Recommended: Long-term Investing Strategies

What Are Some Helpful LEAPS Options Strategies?

There are many different strategies for trading options, and many can be applied to trading LEAPS. And since options strategies can quickly get complicated, it may be best to keep it simple.

As such, one basic LEAPS options trading strategy is to buy calls, and try to benefit from a potential increase in value of the underlying asset over the course of a year or two.

LEAPS can almost stand in for the underlying asset itself, and offer a couple of key advantages: They can increase returns by allowing you control over more shares for less capital, and minimizing your potential losses to the cost of the option’s premium.

Active investors can use LEAPS to benefit from short and long-term market activity. If, for instance, you thought that XYZ was going to experience a stock value decline over the next year, but suspect that it may bounce back and increase in value over two or three years’ time.

You could buy a three-year put LEAPS call option, in that case, along with a standard put option. That would allow you to potentially benefit in the short and long-term in regards to Stock X.

Invest in LEAPS Options with SoFi

The chief difference between LEAPS options and other types of options is that they have longer-than-normal expiration periods of one to three years versus less than a year for traditional options.

Other than that, LEAPS are similar to other types of options in that they’re derivative contracts that grant the buyer the right to buy (call options) or sell (put options) an underlying asset at a specific price before its expiration date.

Trading options is complicated, and can be quite risky, there’s no way around it. For some investors, it may be best to stick to the basics — invest for the long term, and build a portfolio with stocks and ETFs. But once your bases are covered, options can be a next step in your investing evolution.

If you’re ready to try your hand at online options trading, SoFi can help. You can trade options from the SoFi mobile app or through the web platform. And if you have any questions, SoFi offers educational resources about options to learn more.

With SoFi, user-friendly options trading is finally here.


Photo credit: iStock/dusanpetkovic

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Options involve risks, including substantial risk of loss and the possibility an investor may lose the entire amount invested in a short period of time. Before an investor begins trading options they should familiarize themselves with the Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options . Tax considerations with options transactions are unique, investors should consult with their tax advisor to understand the impact to their taxes.
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Strategic Overview: What Is a Cash-Secured Put?

Strategic Overview: What Is a Cash-Secured Put?

A cash-secured put is an income options strategy in which an investor sells a put option on a stock while setting aside the cash to buy that stock, in case the stock price drops below the strike price of the put option and is assigned to the investor.

This strategy is useful for investors who believe a stock may drop in price over the short term and then increase long term. It allows the investor to generate income on the sale of the put, set the price (strike price) at which they will buy the stock if assigned, and enter a stock position at a lower price than when the trade is initiated.

The Details of Selling a Cash-Secured Put

Put options and call options are a type of derivative that may allow investors to gain — not by owning the underlying asset and waiting for it to go up, but by strategically using options contracts to profit from the asset’s price movements.

Similar to the strategy of shorting stocks, the way investors use options reflects their view on whether the price is likely to go up or down.

Selling cash-secured puts is a bullish options trading strategy that involves selling a put option with the hope that it either expires, or the underlying security temporarily drops in price and lets the investor purchase the security at the lower price.

Selling a put obliges an investor to purchase a certain number of stock or ETF shares at a specific price (the strike price) by a specific future date (the expiration date). Investors will choose a put that is out-of-the-money, i.e., with a lower strike price than the current stock price.

What to Consider With Cash-Secured Puts

Investors earn a premium immediately when they sell the cash-secured put. This is a strategy where investors generally sell cash-secured puts associated with securities they don’t own, that they expect to decrease in value in the near future but increase over the long term.

The contract may also require the investor to purchase the security prior to the exercise date if the price of the security drops to lower than the strike price. If the market price of the security is lower than the strike price at the exercise date, the investor still has to purchase the security at the strike price.

If the market price of the security is higher than the strike price at the exercise date, the investor is not obligated to purchase the security and the put expires. In this case, the investor has earned the premium amount and profited from the trade, as they say in options terminology.

Investors are required to have enough cash in their trading account to cover the full purchase amount. The investor must maintain that cash amount in their brokerage account for the duration of time they hold the put, which is why it’s called a cash-secured put.

Recommended: The Meaning of a Bullish Market

Some investors in puts don’t ever plan to purchase the underlying security, they simply want to profit off of the options premium. In that case they would generally write a naked put, which doesn’t require them to hold the cash to purchase the security.

The investor would hope that the put expires without obligating them to buy, and they could pocket the premium amount. Cash-secured puts are geared towards investors who actually want to purchase the underlying security on or before the exercise date at a price of their choosing.

There are some benefits to selling cash-secured puts, and they can be profitable, but investors should understand the risks before trying this investment strategy.

Finally, user-friendly options trading is here.*

Trade options with SoFi Invest on an easy-to-use, intuitively designed online platform.

Pros & Cons of Cash-Secured Puts

Options strategies require the investor to be aware of multiple issues and cash-secured puts are no different.

What Are the Pros of Cash-Secured Puts?

•   The investor earns the premium amount regardless of whether they end up purchasing the security.

•   If the stock price decreases below the strike price, the investor can purchase the security at the strike price of the put which will be lower than the stock price when the trade was initiated.

   Note that if the stock price drops below the strike price and the shares are assigned, the investor will still pay the strike price for the shares. Be sure to think about what determines the stock price of the underlying.

•   If the price ends up increasing instead of decreasing, the put will expire worthless and the investor keeps the premium and the cash set aside for the stock purchase.

•   If an investor thinks a security is going to decrease in value in the short term but increase over the long term, cash-secured puts are a way they can purchase the security at a price less than the current market value.

•   Maximum gains from the put option have a limit, but potential long-term gains after the put option is exercised are unlimited.

Recommended: Learn About the Greeks in Options Trading

What Are the Cons of Cash-Secured Puts?

•   The security might drop below the strike price, it could even fall to $0. It might seem unlikely that a large corporation would go bankrupt, but it has happened before and can happen again.

   In this case the investor would still be obligated to purchase the security at the higher strike price, and would then hold a worthless security. However, even if the security plummets, the investor would still earn the premium amount, and their losses would be less than if they’d simply purchased the security instead of selling the put option.

•   When entering the trade the investor must be prepared to accept the strike price no matter what happens in the market before the exercise date.

◦   Maximum loss = strike price x 100, minus the premium amount

◦   Maximum gain = premium amount

•   A cash-secured put allows the investor to wait for a dip in the security’s price. If the security ends up increasing in value without a short-term dip, the investor has missed out on the opportunity to purchase the security. The put will expire worthless and they will need to make a decision whether to buy at the new, higher price or enter a different trade.

   If an investor knows they want to purchase the security they may want to consider other investing strategies or simply purchase the security at the current market price instead of using the cash-secured put strategy.

•   The investor must hold enough cash to cover the cost of the security for the duration of the trade. This means they can’t invest that cash into other trades.

•   From a short-term perspective, the potential losses from a cash-secured put option trade are high and the potential gains from the put option itself are low.

Tips for Employing a Cash-Secured Put Strategy

•   If an investor is bullish on a security, they should choose an out-of-the-money put option with a strike price below the current market price of the stock.

•   When an investor sets a strike price that is far out-of-the-money, they receive a lower premium and the option is less likely to be exercised.

•   Investors who are very bullish on a security in the short term should choose other investing strategies. Cash secured-put options are best if the investor has a neutral to slightly bullish view of the security.

•   It’s best to sell cash-secured put options when implied volatility of a security is high, because this results in higher option premiums. One way to find securities with high implied volatility is to look for high-quality stocks that have recently declined. The decline is likely to be somewhat temporary but the investor can get in at a lower market price with a higher premium. However, just because a company is large doesn’t mean its stock can’t continue to drop, so it’s important to do a detailed analysis before choosing any securities.

•   Due to the risk of a security’s price dropping more than the investor expects in the short term, it’s best to only sell put options for companies that the investor has researched.

•   Investors generally sell puts with 30-90 day time frames, but some investors choose to sell weekly put options.

Looking to Start Trading Stocks? Invest Today with SoFi

Cash-secured puts are one possible way to generate income while an investor waits for a stock to drop to their desired entry price. Selling cash-secured puts is a bullish options trading strategy that involves selling a put option with the hope that it either expires, or the underlying security temporarily drops in price and lets the investor purchase the security at the lower price.

And while this strategy is not without risk, it can allow the investor to generate short-term income on the sale of the put, set the price (strike price) at which they will buy the stock if assigned, and enter a stock position at a lower price than when the trade is initiated.

If you’re ready to try your hand at options trading, SoFi can help. When you set up an Active Invest account with SoFi, you can start investing online today. You can trade options from the SoFi mobile app or through the web platform. You can also buy and sell stocks, ETFs, and more. And if you have any questions, SoFi offers educational resources to learn more.

Trade options with low fees through SoFi.


Photo credit: iStock/Vanessa Nunes

SoFi Invest®
INVESTMENTS ARE NOT FDIC INSURED • ARE NOT BANK GUARANTEED • MAY LOSE VALUE
SoFi Invest encompasses two distinct companies, with various products and services offered to investors as described below: Individual customer accounts may be subject to the terms applicable to one or more of these platforms.
1) Automated Investing and advisory services are provided by SoFi Wealth LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser (“SoFi Wealth“). Brokerage services are provided to SoFi Wealth LLC by SoFi Securities LLC.
2) Active Investing and brokerage services are provided by SoFi Securities LLC, Member FINRA (www.finra.org)/SIPC(www.sipc.org). Clearing and custody of all securities are provided by APEX Clearing Corporation.
For additional disclosures related to the SoFi Invest platforms described above please visit SoFi.com/legal.
Neither the Investment Advisor Representatives of SoFi Wealth, nor the Registered Representatives of SoFi Securities are compensated for the sale of any product or service sold through any SoFi Invest platform.

Options involve risks, including substantial risk of loss and the possibility an investor may lose the entire amount invested in a short period of time. Before an investor begins trading options they should familiarize themselves with the Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options . Tax considerations with options transactions are unique, investors should consult with their tax advisor to understand the impact to their taxes.
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What Are Inactivity Fees?

Inactivity Fees: What They Are & Ways to Avoid Them

Sometimes, a financial account like a checking account will sit dormant, or unused, for an extended period, and an inactivity fee will be charged. Usually, a bank, credit union, or other financial institution will start to assess an inactivity fee after six months of no activity in the account. However, some banks may wait up to a year before applying inactivity fees to the account.

To better understand and steer clear of this annoying fee, read on. You’ll learn:

•   What is an inactive account fee?

•   How much are inactive account fees?

•   Can you reverse an inactive account fee?

•   How can you avoid inactive account fees?

What Is an Inactive Account Fee?

What is an inactivity fee and why does it get charged? Banks or other financial institutions apply inactivity fees or dormancy fees when financial accounts just sit, without money going in (deposits) or out (withdrawals). Perhaps the account holder isn’t conducting any kind of activity at all; not even checking the balance for a stretch of time.

Financial institutions can apply these inactivity fees to all sorts of accounts, like brokerage or trading accounts, checking accounts, and savings accounts. These fees are a way for banks to recoup some of the costs they incur when maintaining dormant accounts and can trigger the account holder to reactivate the account.

Recommended: What Happens if a Direct Deposit Goes to a Closed Account?

How Do Inactive Account Fees Work?

Here’s how inactive account fees work:

1.    No transactions occur within the account. Let’s say you opened a savings account to fund your next vacation. But life got in the way, and you forgot about it for six months, leaving it inactive. Keep in mind, the definition of inactivity may vary by the financial institution. So, while some banks may only require you to conduct a balance verification to keep the account active, others may require, say, a bank transaction deposit or a withdrawal, to keep the account active.

2.    The account is flagged for inactivity. Since money isn’t flowing in or out of the account, the financial institution flags the account. After this happens, some financial institutions may send a notification to the account holder before they begin charging a fee. The notice allows the account holder to take action before fees begin racking up. But other banks may not send a notification before they begin charging you inactivity fees. That means you are responsible for keeping tabs on your accounts so you can ensure they are up-to-date.

3.    The financial institutions begin charging inactivity fees to the account. Usually, the financial institutions will begin charging an inactivity fee between several months to a year after the last transaction took place within the account.

The account will be deemed a dormant bank account if these fees go unnoticed for a few years. Every state has a different timeline for determining when accounts are dormant. For example, California, Connecticut, and Illinois considered accounts dormant after three years of inactivity. On the other hand, an account requires five years of inactivity in Delaware, Georgia, and Wisconsin to move to the dormant category.

Once the account is considered dormant, the financial insulation will reach out to let you know that if you don’t attend to the account, it must be closed and transferred to the state — a process called escheatment. But, even if your account funds end up with the state, the situation isn’t hopeless. There are several ways to find a lost bank account and hopefully retrieve any unclaimed money.

Recommended: What Is the Difference Between a Deposit and a Withdrawal?

How Much Do Inactive Account Fees Cost?

Inactive account fees can range between $5 to $20 per month, depending on the bank.

Remember, only some financial accounts have inactivity fees. However, if your account does have inactivity or dormancy fees, guidelines must be outlined in the terms and conditions of the account. Check the fine print or contact your financial institution to learn the details of these and other monthly maintenance fees.

Why Do Banks Have Inactive Account Fees?

One of the primary reasons banks charge inactivity fees is that states govern accounts considered inactive and abandoned. Usually, an account that has had no activity for three to five years is considered abandoned in the eyes of the government.

Depending on the state’s laws, the financial institution may have to turn over the funds to the Office of the State treasurer if the account is deemed abandoned. At this point, the Office of The State Treasure is tasked with finding the rightful owner of the unclaimed asset.

Since banks do not want to hand over funds, they may charge an inactivity fee as a way to keep the account active. Thus, the financial institution won’t have to give the account to the state, keeping the money right where it is.

Additionally, inactive accounts cost financial institutions money. So, to encourage the account holder to start using the account, they charge inactivity fees. While some financial institutions send inactivity notices, others may not. Therefore, if your account has been inactive for a long time, you may only notice the fee once your bank account is depleted. At this point, the financial institution may choose to close the account.

Recommended: Can You Reopen a Closed Bank Account?

Can You Reverse an Inactive Account Fee?

It never hurts to call your bank and request a reversal of inactivity fees. However, if the financial institution is unwilling or unable to reverse the fees, you may want to compare different account options to find a type of deposit account that better suits your needs.

Make sure to compare all fees and any interest rates that might be earned to identify the right account for your needs.

Tips to Avoid Inactive Account Fees

Inactive account fees are a nuisance. But, there are several ways you can avoid them entirely. Here’s how:

•   Set up recurring deposits or withdrawals. Establishing a direct deposit into or out of your account can help keep it active and avoid inactive account fees.

•   Review accounts regularly. Checking your financial accounts and spending habits regularly can help you keep tabs on your money and also decide if keeping a specific account open is worth it.

•   Keep contact information up-to-date. If your account becomes inactive, some banks may attempt to contact you before charging you an inactive account fee. If you have the wrong information on file, you may never receive a heads-up about the additional fee.

•   Move money to another account. If you don’t want to maintain an account, it’s best to move the money to an account you actively manage. Then close the account once the money has been transferred. That way, you’ll dodge fees and streamline your financial life.

Recommended: How to Remove a Closed Account from Your Credit Report

The Takeaway

When you don’t use an account, your financial institution could begin assessing an inactivity fee. You can avoid these charges by keeping watch of your bank accounts and setting up automatic deposits or withdrawals. If you discover you’re not using your account, you can empty and close it, so you don’t have to worry about extra fees.

Remember, some banks charge fees while others don’t. When you open an online bank account with SoFi, you can avoid account fees and earn a competitive APY. What’s more, our Checking and Savings account lets you do your spending and saving in one convenient place. It’s all part of banking better with SoFi.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.

FAQ

Can a bank shut your account down if you have an inactive account fee?

Yes; if there has been no activity on your account for a while (the timeframe will likely vary by financial institution), your bank generally has the right to close your account. Plus, it’s not required that they notify you of the closure.

Are inactivity fees the same as dormancy fees?

Yes; inactive and dormancy fees are the same. They are both applied to the account when it’s inactive for an extended time.

Besides inactivity fees, what other fees do banks often charge?

ATM fees, maintenance fees, overdraft fees, and paper statement fees are just a few fees banks levy on their bank accounts. Before you open an account, make sure you understand the type of fees that accompany your account, so there are no surprises down the road.


Photo credit: iStock/Prostock-Studio

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SoFi® Checking and Savings is offered through SoFi Bank, N.A. ©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.
The SoFi Bank Debit Mastercard® is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A., pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.


SoFi members with direct deposit activity can earn 4.60% annual percentage yield (APY) on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Direct Deposit means a recurring deposit of regular income to an account holder’s SoFi Checking or Savings account, including payroll, pension, or government benefit payments (e.g., Social Security), made by the account holder’s employer, payroll or benefits provider or government agency (“Direct Deposit”) via the Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) Network during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Deposits that are not from an employer or government agency, including but not limited to check deposits, peer-to-peer transfers (e.g., transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc.), merchant transactions (e.g., transactions from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.), and bank ACH funds transfers and wire transfers from external accounts, or are non-recurring in nature (e.g., IRS tax refunds), do not constitute Direct Deposit activity. There is no minimum Direct Deposit amount required to qualify for the stated interest rate.

As an alternative to direct deposit, SoFi members with Qualifying Deposits can earn 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances. Qualifying Deposits means one or more deposits that, in the aggregate, are equal to or greater than $5,000 to an account holder’s SoFi Checking and Savings account (“Qualifying Deposits”) during a 30-day Evaluation Period (as defined below). Qualifying Deposits only include those deposits from the following eligible sources: (i) ACH transfers, (ii) inbound wire transfers, (iii) peer-to-peer transfers (i.e., external transfers from PayPal, Venmo, etc. and internal peer-to-peer transfers from a SoFi account belonging to another account holder), (iv) check deposits, (v) instant funding to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, (vi) push payments to your SoFi Bank Debit Card, and (vii) cash deposits. Qualifying Deposits do not include: (i) transfers between an account holder’s Checking account, Savings account, and/or Vaults; (ii) interest payments; (iii) bonuses issued by SoFi Bank or its affiliates; or (iv) credits, reversals, and refunds from SoFi Bank, N.A. (“SoFi Bank”) or from a merchant.

SoFi Bank shall, in its sole discretion, assess each account holder’s Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits throughout each 30-Day Evaluation Period to determine the applicability of rates and may request additional documentation for verification of eligibility. The 30-Day Evaluation Period refers to the “Start Date” and “End Date” set forth on the APY Details page of your account, which comprises a period of 30 calendar days (the “30-Day Evaluation Period”). You can access the APY Details page at any time by logging into your SoFi account on the SoFi mobile app or SoFi website and selecting either (i) Banking > Savings > Current APY or (ii) Banking > Checking > Current APY. Upon receiving a Direct Deposit or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits to your account, you will begin earning 4.60% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% on checking balances on or before the following calendar day. You will continue to earn these APYs for (i) the remainder of the current 30-Day Evaluation Period and through the end of the subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period and (ii) any following 30-day Evaluation Periods during which SoFi Bank determines you to have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits without interruption.

SoFi Bank reserves the right to grant a grace period to account holders following a change in Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits activity before adjusting rates. If SoFi Bank grants you a grace period, the dates for such grace period will be reflected on the APY Details page of your account. If SoFi Bank determines that you did not have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits during the current 30-day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, then you will begin earning the rates earned by account holders without either Direct Deposit or Qualifying Deposits until you have Direct Deposit activity or $5,000 in Qualifying Deposits in a subsequent 30-Day Evaluation Period. For the avoidance of doubt, an account holder with both Direct Deposit activity and Qualifying Deposits will earn the rates earned by account holders with Direct Deposit.

Members without either Direct Deposit activity or Qualifying Deposits, as determined by SoFi Bank, during a 30-Day Evaluation Period and, if applicable, the grace period, will earn 1.20% APY on savings balances (including Vaults) and 0.50% APY on checking balances.

Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 10/24/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at https://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.


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