How To Make Money Trading Call Options
Example of Call Options Trading:
Trading call options is so much more profitable than just trading stocks, and it's a lot easier than most people think, so let's look at a simple call option trading example.
Call Option Trading Example:
Suppose YHOO is at $40 and you think its price is going to go up to $50 in the next few weeks. One way to profit from this expectation is to buy 100 shares of YHOO stock at $40 and sell it in a few weeks when it goes to $50. This would cost $4,000 today and when you sold the 100 shares of stock in a few weeks you would receive $5,000 for a $1,000 profit and a 25% return.
While a 25% return is a fantastic return on any stock trade, keep reading and find out how trading call options on YHOO could give a 400% return on a similar investment!
How to Turn $4,000 into $20,000:
With call option trading, extraordinary returns are possible when you know for sure that a stock price will move a lot in a short period of time. (For an example, see the $100K Options Challenge)
Let's start by trading one call option contract for 100 shares of Yahoo! (YHOO) with a strike price of $40 which expires in two months.
To make things easy to understand, let's assume that this call option was priced at $2.00 per share, which would cost $200 per contract since each option contract covers 100 shares. So when you see the price of an option is $2.00, you need to think $200 per contract. Trading or buying one call option on YHOO now gives you the right, but not the obligation, to buy 100 shares of YHOO at $40 per share anytime between now and the 3rd Friday in the expiration month.
When YHOO goes to $50, our call option to buy YHOO at a strike price of $40 will be priced at least $10 or $1,000 per contract. Why $10 you ask? Because you have the right to buy the shares at $40 when everyone else in the world has to pay the market price of $50, so that right has to be worth $10! This option is said to be "in-the-money" $10 or it has an "intrinsic value" of $10.
Call Option Payoff Diagram
So when trading the YHOO $40 call, we paid $200 for the contract and sold it at $1,000 for a $800 profit on a $200 investment--that's a 400% return.
In the example of buying the 100 shares of YHOO we had $4,000 to spend, so what would have happened if we spent that $4,000 on buying more than one YHOO call option instead of buying the 100 shares of YHOO stock? We could have bought 20 contracts ($4,000/$200=20 call option contracts) and we would have sold them for $20,000 for a $16,000 profit.
Call Options Trading Tip: In the U.S., most equity and index option contracts expire on the 3rd Friday of the month, but this is starting to change as the exchanges are allowing options that expire every week for the most popular stocks and indices.
Call Options Trading Tip: Also, note that in the U.S. most call options are known as American Style options. This means that you can exercise them at any time prior to the expiration date. In contrast, European style call options only allow you to exercise the call option on the expiration date!
Call and Put Option Trading Tip: Finally, note from the graph below that the main advantage that call options have over put options is that the profit potential is unlimited! If the stock goes up to $1,000 per share then these YHOO $40 call options would be in the money $960! This contrasts to a put option in the most that a stock price can go down is to $0. So the most that a put option can ever be in the money is the value of the strike price.
What happens to the call options if YHOO doesn't go up to $50 and only goes to $45?
If the price of YHOO rises above $40 by the expiration date, to say $45, then your call options are still "in-the-money" by $5 and you can exercise your option and buy 100 shares of YHOO at $40 and immediately sell them at the market price of $45 for a $3 profit per share. Of course, you don't have to sell it immediately-if you want to own the shares of YHOO then you don't have to sell them. Since all option contracts cover 100 shares, your real profit on that one call option contract is actually $300 ($5 x 100 shares - $200 cost). Still not too shabby, eh?
What happens to the call options if YHOO doesn't go up to $50 and just stays around $40?
Now if YHOO stays basically the same and hovers around $40 for the next few weeks, then the option will be "at-the-money" and will eventually expire worthless. If YHOO stays at $40 then the $40 call option is worthless because no one would pay any money for the option if you could just buy the YHOO stock at $40 in the open market.
In this instance, you would have lost only the $200 that you paid for the one option.
What happens to the call options if YHOO doesn't go up to $50 and falls to $35?
Now on the other hand, if the market price of YHOO is $35, then you have no reason to exercise your call option and buy 100 shares at $40 share for an immediate $5 loss per share. That's where your call option comes in handy since you do not have the obligation to buy these shares at that price - you simply do nothing, and let the option expire worthless. When this happens, your options are considered "out-of-the-money" and you have lost the $200 that you paid for your call option.
Important Tip - Notice that you no matter how far the price of the stock falls, you can never lose more than the cost of your initial investment. That is why the line in the call option payoff diagram above is flat if the closing price is at or below the strike price.
Also note that call options that are set to expire in 1 year or more in the future are called LEAPs and can be a more cost effective way to investing in your favorite stocks.
Always remember that in order for you to buy this YHOO October 40 call option, there has to be someone that is willing to sell you that call option. People buy stocks and call options believing their market price will increase, while sellers believe (just as strongly) that the price will decline. One of you will be right and the other will be wrong. You can be either a buyer or seller of call options. The seller has received a "premium" in the form of the initial option cost the buyer paid ($2 per share or $200 per contract in our example), earning some compensation for selling you the right to "call" the stock away from him if the stock price closes above the strike price. We will return to this topic in a bit.
The second thing you must remember is that a "call option" gives you the right to buy a stock at a certain price by a certain date; and a "put option" gives you the right to sell a stock at a certain price by a certain date. You can remember the difference easily by thinking a "call option" allows you to call the stock away from someone, and a "put option" allows you to put the stock (sell it) to someone.
Ready to trade? See my Review of the Best Option Brokers.
Here are the top 10 option concepts you should understand before making your first real trade: