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What Is a Bull Put Credit Spread? Definition and Example

By Colin Dodds · January 04, 2022 · 5 minute read

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What Is a Bull Put Credit Spread? Definition and Example

The bull put credit spread, also referred to as bull put spread or put credit spread, is an options trading strategy. In a bull put credit spread, an investor buys one put option and sells another. Each set of options has the same underlying security and the same expiration date, but a different strike (exercise) price. The strategy has limited upside and downside potential.

Investors employing a bull put credit spread receive a net credit from the difference in option premiums. The strategy seeks to profit from a modest increase in price of the underlying asset before the expiration date. The trade will also benefit from time decay or a decline in implied volatility.

Recommended: 10 Important Options Trading Strategies

How a Bull Put Credit Spread Works

In a bull put credit spread, the investor uses put options, which give the investor the right – but not the obligation – to sell a security at a given price during a set period of time. For that reason, they’re typically used by investors who want to bet that a stock will go down.

To construct a bull put credit spread, a trader first sells a put option at a given strike price and expiration date, receiving the premium (a credit) for the sale. This option is known as the short leg.

At the same time, the trader buys a put option at a lower strike price, paying a premium. This option is called the long leg. The premium for the long leg put option will always be less than the short leg, since the lower strike put is further out-of-the money. Thus, the trader receives a net credit for setting up the trade.

The difference between the strike prices of the two sets of options is known as the “spread,” giving the strategy its name. The “credit” in the name comes from the fact that the trader receives a net premium upfront.

Recommended: What Is a Protective Put? Definition and Example

Profiting from a Bull Put Credit Spread

In a properly executed bull put credit spread strategy, as long as the value of the underlying security remains above a certain level, the strategy produces a profit as the difference in value between the two sets of options diminish. This reduction in the “spread” between the two put options reflects time decay, a dynamic by which the value of an options contract declines as that contract grows closer to its expiration date.

As the “bull” in the name indicates, the strategy’s users believe that the value of the underlying security will go up before the options used in the strategy expire. For bull put credit spread investors, the more the value of the underlying security goes up during the life of the strategy, the better their returns, although there’s a cap on the total profit an investor can receive.

If the underlying security drops under the long-put strike price, then the options trader can lose money on the strategy.

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Maximum Gain, Loss, and Break-Even of a Bull Put Credit Spread

Investors in a bull put credit spread strategy make money when the value of the underlying security of the options goes up, but the trade comes with limited loss and gain potential. The short put gives the investor a credit, but caps the potential upside of the trade. And the purpose of the long put position – which the investor purchases – protects against loss.

The maximum gain on a bull put credit spread will be obtained when the price of the underlying security is at or above the strike price of the short put. In this case, both put options are out-of-the-money, and expire worthless, so the trader keeps the full net premium received when the trade was initiated.

The maximum loss will be reached when the price of the underlying security falls below the strike price of the long put (lower strike). Both put options would be in-the-money, and the loss (at expiration) will be equal to the spread (the difference in the two strike prices) less the net premium received.

The breakeven is equal to the strike price of short put (higher strike) minus net premium received.

Example of a Bull Put Credit Spread

Here’s an example of how trading a bull put credit spread can work:

Bob, a qualified investor, thinks that the price of XYZ stock may increase modestly or hold at its current price of $50 over the next 30 days. He chooses to initiate a bull put credit spread.

Bob sells a put option with a strike price of $50 for a premium of $3, and buys a put option with a strike price of $45 for a premium of $1, both expiring in 30 days. He earns a net credit of $2, the difference in premiums. And because one options contract controls 100 shares of the underlying asset, the total credit received is $200.

Scenario 1: Maximum Profit

The best case scenario for Bob is that the price of XYZ is at or above $50 on expiration day. Both put options expire worthless, and the maximum profit is reached. His total gain is $200, equal to $3 – $1 = $2 x 100 shares, less any commissions. Once the price of XYZ is above $50, the higher strike price, the trade ceases to gain additional profit.

Scenario 2: Maximum Loss

The worst case scenario for Bob is that the price of XYZ is below $45 on expiration day. The maximum loss would be reached, which is equal to $300, plus any commissions. That’s because $500 ($50 – $45 x 100) minus the $200 net credit received is $300. Once the price of XYZ is below $45, the trade ceases to lose any more money.

Scenario 3: Breakeven

Suppose that on expiration day, XYZ trades at $48. The long put, with a strike of $45, is out-of-the-money, and expires worthless, but the short put is in-the-money by $2. The loss on this option is equal to $200 ($2 x 100 shares), which is offset by the $200 credit received. Bob breaks even, as the profit and loss net out to $0.

Related Strategies: Bear Put Debit Spread

The opposite of the bull put credit spread is the bear put debit spread, also known as a put debit spread or bear put spread. In a bear put spread, the investor buys a put option at one strike price and sells a put option at a lower strike price – essentially swapping the order of the bull put credit spread. While this sounds similar to the bull put spread, the construction of the bear put spread results in two key differences.

First, the bear put spread, as its name implies, represents a “bearish” bet on the underlying security. The trade will tend to profit if the price of the underlying declines.

Second, the bear put spread is a “debit” transaction – the trader will pay a net premium to enter it, since the premium for the long leg (the higher strike price option) will be more than the premium on the short leg (the lower strike price option).

Bull Put Credit Spread Pros and Cons

There are benefits and drawbacks to using bull put credit spreads when investing.

Pros

Here are the advantages to using a bull put credit spread:

•   The inevitable time decay of options improves the probability that the trade will be profitable.

•   Bull put credit spread traders can still make a profit if the underlying stock price drops by a relatively small amount.

•   The timing and strategy for exiting the position are built into the initial trades.

Cons

In addition to the benefits, there are also some disadvantages when considering a bull put strategy.

•   The profit potential in a put credit spread is limited, and may be lower than the return if the investor had simply purchased the security outright.

•   On average, the maximum loss in the strategy is larger than the maximum gain.

•   Options strategies are more complicated than some other forms of investing, making it difficult for beginner investors to engage.

The Takeaway

Bull put credit spreads are bullish options trading strategies, where the investor sells one put option and buys another with a lower strike price. That investor can make money when the value of the underlying security of the options goes up, but the trade comes with limited loss and gain potential.

That said, it’s also possible to build a portfolio with stocks and other investments without using complicated options strategies. One easy way to get started is by opening an investment account on the SoFi® Invest platform. It offers an active investing solution that lets you choose stocks exchange-trading funds as well as an automated solution invests your money based on your goals and risk.

Photo credit: iStock/Ridofranz


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