10 Options Trading Strategies for Beginners

By Inyoung Hwang · July 20, 2022 · 10 minute read

We’re here to help! First and foremost, SoFi Learn strives to be a beneficial resource to you as you navigate your financial journey. We develop content that covers a variety of financial topics. Sometimes, that content may include information about products, features, or services that SoFi does not provide. We aim to break down complicated concepts, loop you in on the latest trends, and keep you up-to-date on the stuff you can use to help get your money right.

10 Options Trading Strategies for Beginners

Editor's Note: Options are not suitable for all investors. 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. Please see the Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options.

While the options market is risky and not suitable for everyone, these contracts can be a tool to make a speculative bet or offset risk in another position.

Many option strategies can involve one “leg,” meaning there’s only one contract that’s traded. More sophisticated strategies involve buying or selling multiple options contracts at the same time in order to minimize risk.

Here’s a guide that covers 10 important options trading strategies–from the most basic to the more complex and advanced.

10 Important Options Trading Strategies for Beginners

When trading options, investors can either buy existing contracts, or they can “write” or sell contracts for securities they currently hold. The former is generally used as a means of speculation, while the latter is most often used as a way of generating income.

Here’s a closer look at important options strategies for beginner, intermediate and more advanced investors to know.

1. Long Calls

Level of Expertise: Beginner

Being long a call option means an investor has purchased a call option. “Going long” calls are a very traditional way of using options. This strategy is often used when an investor has expectations that the share price of a stock will rise but may not want to outright own the stock. It’s therefore a bullish trading strategy.

Let’s say an investor believes that Retail Stock will climb in one month. Retail Stock is currently trading at $10 a share and the investor believes it will rise above $12. The investor could buy an option with a $12 strike price and with an expiration date at least one month from now. If Retail Stock’s price rises to hit $12 within a month, the value or “premium” of the option would likely rise.

2. Long Puts

Level of Expertise: Beginner

Put options can be used to make a bearish speculative bet, similar to shorting a stock, or they can also function as a hedge. A hedge is something an investor uses to make up for potential losses somewhere else. Here are examples of both uses.

Let’s say Options Trader wants to wager shares of Finance Firm will fall. Options Trader doesn’t want to buy the shares outright so instead purchases puts tied to Finance Firm. If Finance Firm stock falls before the expiration date of the puts, the value of those options will likely rise. And Options Trader can sell them in the market for a profit.

An example of a hedge might be an investor who buys shares of Tech Stock C that are currently trading at $20. But the investor is also nervous about the stock falling, so they buy puts with a strike price of $18 and an expiration two months from now.

One month later, Tech Stock C stock tumbles to $15, and the investor needs to sell their shares for extra cash. But the investor capped their losses because they were able to sell the shares at $18 by exercising their puts.

3. Covered Calls

Level of Expertise: Beginner

The covered call strategy requires an investor to own shares of the underlying stock. They then write a call option on the stock and receive a premium payment.

The tradeoff is that if the stock rises above the strike price of the contract, the stock shares will be called away from them, and the shares (along with any future price rises) will be forfeit. So, this strategy works best when a stock is expected to stay flat or go down slightly.

If the stock price of Company Y stays below the strike price when the option expires, the call writer keeps the shares and the premium and can then write another covered call if desired. If Company Y rises above the strike price when the option expires, the call writer must sell the shares at that price.

4. Short Puts

Level of Expertise: Beginner

Being short a put is similar to being long a call in the sense that both strategies are bullish. However, when shorting a put, investors actually sell the put option, earning a premium through the trade. If the buyer of the put option exercises the contract however, the seller would be obligated to buy those shares.

Here’s an example of a short put: Shares of Transportation Stock are trading at $40 a share. An investor wants to buy the shares at $35. Instead of buying shares however, the investor sells put options with a strike price of $35. If the shares never hit $35, the investor gets to keep the premium they made from the sale of the puts.

Should the options buyer exercise those puts when it hits $35, the investor would have to buy those shares. But remember the investor wanted to buy at that level anyways. Plus by going short put options, they’ve also already collected a nice premium.

5. Short Calls or Naked Calls

Level of Expertise: Intermediate

When an investor is short call options, they are typically bearish or neutral on the underlying stock. The investor typically sells the call option to another person. Should the person who bought the call exercise the option, the original investor needs to deliver the stock.

Short calls are like covered calls, but the investor selling the options don’t already own the underlying shares, hence the phrase “naked calls”. Hence they’re riskier and not for beginner investors.

Here’s a hypothetical case: Investor A sells a call option with a strike price of $100 to Trader B, while the underlying stock of Energy Stock is trading at $90. This means that if Energy Stock never rises to $100 a share, Investor A pockets the premium they earned from selling the call option.

However, if shares of Energy Stock rise above $100 to $115, and Trader B exercises the call option, Investor A is obligated to sell the underlying shares to Trader B. That means Investor A has to buy the shares for $115 each and deliver them to Trader B, who only has to pay $100 per share.

6. Straddles and Strangles

Level of Expertise: Intermediate

With straddles in options trading, investors can profit regardless of the direction the underlying stock or asset makes. In a long straddle, an investor is anticipating higher volatility, so they buy both a call option and a put option at the same time. Short straddles are the opposite–investors sell a call and put at the same time.

Straddles and strangles are used when movement in the underlying asset is expected to be small or neutral.

Let’s look at a hypothetical long straddle. An investor pays $1 for a call contract and $1 for a put contract. Both have strikes of $10. In order for the investor to break even, the stock will have to rise above $12 or fall below $8. This is because we’re taking into account the $2 they spent on the premiums.

In a long strangle, the investor buys a call and put but with different strike prices. This is likely because they believe the stock is more likely to move up than down, or vice versa. In a short strangle, the investor sells a call and put with different strikes.

Here’s an example of a short strangle. An investor sells a call and put on an exchange-traded fund (ETF) for $3 each. The maximum profit the investor can make is $6 — the total from the sales of the call and the put options. The maximum loss the investor can incur is unlimited since the underlying ETF can potentially climb higher forever. Meanwhile, losses would stop when the price hit $0 but still be significant.

7. Cash-Secured Puts

Level of Expertise: Intermediate

The cash-secured put strategy is one that can both provide income and let investors purchase a stock at a lower price than they might have been able to if using a simple market buy order.

Here’s how it works: an investor writes a put option for Miner CC they do not own with a strike price lower than shares are currently trading at. The investor needs to have enough cash in their account to cover the cost of buying 100 shares per contract written, in case the stock trades below the strike price upon expiration (in which case they would be obligated to buy).

This strategy is typically used when the investor has a bullish to neutral outlook on the underlying asset. The option writer receives cheap shares while also holding onto the premium. Alternatively, if the stock trades sideways, the writer will still receive the premium, but no shares.

8. Bull Put Spreads

Level of Expertise: Advanced

A bull put spread involves one long put with a lower strike price and one short put with a higher strike price. Both contracts have the same expiration date and underlying security. This strategy is intended to benefit from a rising stock price. But unlike a regular call option, a bull put spread limits losses and can also profit from time decay.

Let’s say a stock is trading at $150. Trader B buys one put option with a strike of $140 for $3, while selling another put option with a strike of $160 for $4. The maximum profit is $1, or the net earnings from the two options premiums. So $4 minus $3 = $1. The maximum profit can be achieved when the stock price goes above the higher strike, so $160 in this case.

Meanwhile, the maximum loss equals the difference between the two strikes minus the difference of the premiums. So ($160 minus $140 = $20) minus ($4 minus $3 = $1) so $20 minus $1, which equals $19. The maximum loss is achieved if the share price falls below the strike of the put option the investor bought, so $140 in this example.

Recommended: A Guide to Options Spreads

9. Iron Condors

Level of Expertise: Advanced

The iron condor consists of four option legs (two calls and two puts) and is designed to earn a small profit in a low-risk fashion when a stock is thought to have little volatility. Here are the four legs. All four contracts have the same expiration:

1.   Buy an out-of-the-money put with a lower strike price

2.   Write a put with a strike price closer to the asset’s current price

3.   Write an call with a higher strike

4.   Buy a call with an even higher out-of-the-money strike.

If an individual makes an iron condor on shares of Widget Maker Inc., the best case scenario for them would be if all the options expire worthless. In that case, the individual would collect the net premium from creating the trade.

Meanwhile, the maximum loss is the difference between the long call and short call strikes, or the long put and short put strikes, after taking into account the premiums from creating the trade.

10. Butterfly Spreads

Level of Expertise: Advanced

A butterfly spread is a combination of a bull spread and a bear spread and can be constructed with either calls or puts. Like the iron condor, the butterfly spread involves four different options legs. This strategy is used when a stock is expected to stay relatively flat until the options expire.

In this example, we’ll look at a long-call butterfly spread. To create a butterfly spread, an investor buys or writes four contracts:

1.   Buys one in-the-money call with a lower strike price

2.   Writes two at-the-money calls

3.   Buys another higher striking out-of-the-money call.

The Takeaway

Options trading strategies offer a way to potentially profit in almost any market situation—whether prices are going up, down, or sideways. The market is complex and highly risky, making it not suitable for everyone, but the guide above lays out different trading strategies based on the level of expertise of the investor.

Investors who are ready to dip their toe into options trading might consider SoFi’s options trading platform, where they’ll have access to a library of educational content about options. Plus, the platform has a user-friendly design.

Pay low fees when you start options trading with SoFi.

Photo credit: iStock/Rockaa
SoFi Invest®


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.
Disclaimer: The projections or other information regarding the likelihood of various investment outcomes are hypothetical in nature, do not reflect actual investment results, and are not guarantees of future results.
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.


TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender