Binary Options – What they are

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Binary Option

What is a Binary Option?

A binary option is a financial product where the buyer receives a payout or loses their investment, based on if the option expires in the money. Binary options depend on the outcome of a “yes or no” proposition, hence the name “binary.” Binary options have an expiry date and/or time. At the time of expiry, the price of the underlying asset must be on the correct side of the strike price (based on the trade taken) for the trader to make a profit.

A binary option automatically exercises, meaning the gain or loss on the trade is automatically credited or debited to the trader’s account when the option expires.

Binary Options Outside the US

Basics of a Binary Option

A binary option may be as simple as whether the share price of ABC will be above $25 on April 22, 2020, at 10:45 a.m. The trader makes a decision, either yes (it will be higher) or no (it will be lower).

Let’s say the trader thinks the price will be trading above $25, on that date and time, and is willing to bet $100 on it. If ABC shares trade above $25 at that date and time, the trader receives a payout per the terms agreed. For example, if the payout was 70%, the binary broker credits the trader’s account with $70.

If the price trades below $25 at that date and time, the trader was wrong and loses their $100 investment in the trade.

Key Takeaways

  • Binary options depend on the outcome of a “yes or no” proposition.
  • Traders receive a payout if the binary option expires in the money and incur a loss if it expires out of the money.
  • Binary options set a fixed payout and loss amount.
  • Binary options don’t allow traders to take a position in the underlying security.
  • Most binary options trading occurs outside the United States.

Difference Between Binary and Vanilla Options

A vanilla American option gives the holder the right to buy or sell an underlying asset at a specified price before the expiration date of the option. A European option is the same, except traders can only exercise that right on the expiration date. Vanilla options, or just “options,” provide the buyer with potential ownership of the underlying asset. When buying these options, traders have fixed risk, but profits vary depending on how far the price of the underlying asset moves.

Binary options differ in that they don’t provide the possibility of taking a position in the underlying asset. Binary options typically specify a fixed maximum payout, while maximum risk is limited to the amount invested in the option. Movement in the underlying asset doesn’t affect the payout received or loss incurred.

The profit or loss depends on whether the price of the underlying is on the correct side of the strike price. Some binary options can be closed before expiration, although this typically reduces the payout received (if the option is in the money).

Binary Options and Regulation

Binary options occasionally trade on platforms regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other regulatory agencies, but most binary options trading occurs outside the United States and may not be regulated. Unregulated binary options brokers don’t have to meet a particular standard; therefore, investors should be wary of the potential for fraud. Conversely, vanilla options trade on regulated U.S. exchanges and are subject to greater oversight.

Real World Binary Options Example

Nadex is a regulated binary options exchange in the United States. Nadex binary options are based on a “yes or no” proposition and allow traders to exit before expiry. The binary option’s entry price indicates the potential profit or loss, with all options expiring worth $100 or $0.

Let’s assume stock Colgate-Palmolive Co. (CL) is currently trading at $64.75. A binary option has a strike price of $65 and expires tomorrow at 12 p.m. The trader can buy the option for $40. If the price of the stock finishes above $65, the option expires in the money and is worth $100. The trader makes $60 ($100 – $40).

If the option expires and the price of the Colgate is below $65 (out of the money), the trader loses the $40 they put into the option. The potential profit and loss, combined, always equals $100 with a Nadex binary option.

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If the trader wanted to make a more significant investment, he or she could change the number of options traded. For example, selecting three contracts, in this case, would up the risk to $120, and increase the profit potential to $180.

Non-Nadex binary options are similar, except they typically aren’t regulated in the United States, often can’t be exited before expiry, usually have fixed percentage payout for wins (whereas Nadex payouts fluctuate based on the price paid for the option) and may not trade in $100 increments.

What You Need To Know About Binary Options Outside the U.S

What Do You Need To Know About Binary Options Outside the U.S?

Binary options let traders profit from price fluctuations in multiple global markets, but it’s important to understand the risks and rewards of these controversial and often-misunderstood financial instruments. Binary options bear little resemblance to traditional options, featuring different payouts, fees, and risks, as well as a unique liquidity structure and investment process.

Binary options traded outside the U.S. are also structured differently than those available on U.S. exchanges. They offer a viable alternative when speculating or hedging but only if the trader fully understands the two potential and opposing outcomes.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) summed up regulator skepticism about these exotic instruments, advising investors “to be particularly wary of non-U.S. companies that offer binary options trading platforms. These include trading applications with names that often imply an easy path to riches.” 

Key Takeaways

  • Binary options have a clear expiration date, time, and strike price.
  • Traders profit from price fluctuations in multiple global markets using binary options, though those traded outside the U.S. are structured differently than those available on U.S. exchanges.
  • Non-U.S. binary options typically have a fixed payout and risk, and are offered by individual brokers rather than directly on an exchange.
  • While typical high-low binary options are the most common type of binary option, international brokers typically offer several other types of binaries as well.

Binary options outside the U.S. are an alternative for speculating or hedging but come with advantages and disadvantages. The positives include a known risk and reward, no commissions, innumerable strike prices, and expiry dates. Negatives include non-ownership of the traded asset, little regulatory oversight, and a winning payout that is usually less than the loss on losing trades.

Understanding Binary Options Outside the U.S

What Are Binary Options?

Binary options are deceptively simple to understand, making them a popular choice for low-skilled traders. The most commonly traded instrument is a high-low or fixed-return option that provides access to stocks, indices, commodities, and foreign exchange.

These options have a clearly stated expiration date, time, and strike price. If a trader wagers correctly on the market’s direction and price at the time of expiration, they are paid a fixed return regardless of how much the instrument has moved since the transaction, while an incorrect wager loses the original investment.

The binary options trader buys a call when bullish on a stock, index, commodity, or currency pair, or a put on those instruments when bearish. For a call to make money, the market must trade above the strike price at the expiration time. For a put to make money, the market must trade below the strike price at the expiration time.

The broker discloses the strike price, expiration date, payout, and risk when the trade is first established. For most high-low binary options traded outside the U.S., the strike price is the current price or rate of the underlying financial product. Therefore, the trader is wagering whether the price on the expiration date will be higher or lower than the current price.

Binary Options Outside the US

Foreign Versus U.S. Binary Options

Non-U.S. binary options typically have a fixed payout and risk and are offered by individual brokers rather than directly on an exchange. These brokers profit from the difference between what they pay out on winning trades and what they collect on losing trades. While there are exceptions, these instruments are supposed to be held until expiration in an “all-or-nothing” payout structure.

Foreign brokers are not legally allowed to solicit U.S. residents unless registered with a U.S. regulatory body such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

The Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) began listing binary options for U.S. residents in 2008.   The SEC regulates the CBOE, which offers investors increased protection compared to over-the-counter markets. Chicago-based Nadex also runs a binary options exchange for U.S. residents, subject to oversight by the CFTC.

These options can be traded at any time, with the rate fluctuating between one and 100, based on the current probability of the position finishing in or out of the money. There is full transparency at all times and the trader can take the profit or loss they see on their screen prior to expiration.

They can also enter as the rate fluctuates, taking advantage of varying risk-to-reward scenarios, or hold until expiration and close the position with the maximum gain or loss documented at the time of entry. Each trade requires a willing buyer and seller because U.S. binary options trade through an exchange, which makes money through a fee that matches counter-parties.

High-Low Binary Option Example

Your analysis indicates the Standard & Poor’s 500 index will rally for the rest of the trading day and you to buy an index call option. It’s currently trading at 1,800 so you’re wagering the index’s price at expiration will be above that number. Since binary options are available for many time frames—from minutes to months away—you choose an expiration time or date that supports your analysis.

You choose an option that expires in 30 minutes, paying out 70% plus your original stake if the S&P 500 is above 1,800 at that time or you lose the entire stake if the S&P 500 is below 1,800. Minimum and maximum investments vary from broker to broker.

Say you invest $100 in the call that expires in 30 minutes. The S&P 500 price at expiration determines whether you make or lose money. The price at expiration may be the last quoted price, or the (bid + ask)/2. Each binary options broker outlines their own expiration price rules.

In this case, assume the last quote on the S&P 500 before expiration was 1,802. Therefore, you make a $70 profit (or 70% of $100) and maintain your original $100 investment. If the price finished below 1,800, you would lose your original $100 investment.

If the price expires exactly on the strike price, it is common for the trader to receive her/his money back with no profit or loss, although brokers may have different rules. The profit and/or original investment is automatically added to the trader’s account when the position is closed.

Other Types of Binary Options

The example above is for a typical high-low binary option—the most common type of binary option—outside the U.S. International brokers will typically offer several other types of binaries as well.

These include “one-touch” options, where the traded instrument needs to touch the strike price just once before expiration to make money. There is a target above and below the current price, so traders can pick which target they believe will be hit before the expiration date/time.

Meanwhile, a “range” binary option allows traders to select a price range the asset will trade within until expiration. A payout is received if price stays within the range, while the investment is lost if it exits the range.

As competition in the binary options space heats up, brokers are offering additional products that boast 50% to 500% payouts. While product structures and requirements may change, the risk and reward is always known at the trade’s outset, allowing the trader to potentially make more on a position than they lose. Of course, an option offering a 500% payout will be structured in such a way that the probability of winning the payout is very low.

Unlike their U.S. counterparts, some foreign brokers allow traders to exit positions before expiration, but most do not. Exiting a trade before expiration typically results in a lower payout (specified by broker) or small loss, but the trader won’t lose their entire investment.

The Upside and Downside

Risk and reward are known in advance, offering a major advantage. There are only two outcomes: win a fixed amount or lose a fixed amount, and there are generally no commissions or fees. They’re simple to use and there’s only one decision to make: Is the underlying asset going up or down?

In addition, there are also no liquidity concerns because the trader doesn’t own the underlying asset and brokers can offer innumerable strike prices and expiration times/dates, which is an attractive feature. The trader can also access multiple asset classes anytime a market is open somewhere in the world.

On the downside, the reward is always less than the risk when playing high-low binary options. As a result, the trader must be right a high percentage of the time to cover inevitable losses.

While payout and risk fluctuate from broker to broker and instrument to instrument, one thing remains constant: losing trades cost the trader more than they can make on winning trades. Other types of binary options may provide payouts where the reward is potentially greater than the risk but the percentage of winning trades will be lower.

What are Binary Options and How Do They Work?

What is a binary option?

A binary option is a financial instrument based on a simple yes or no question where the payoff is a fixed amount or nothing at all.

This means binary options offer defined risk and clear outcomes on every trade.

Each binary option trade starts with a question – will this market be above this price at this time? If the answer is yes, you can buy the option. If it’s no then you can sell the option.

The price of a binary is always between $0 and $100, and just like in other markets, there is a bid and ask price.

The binary options we offer are always built the same way. Each trade is easy to understand.

If you think about it, binary options reflect the way we think about things in our daily life. Things either happen or they don’t. With a binary option, payouts reflect that and are always all or nothing at expiration. You’ll find we like to keep trading simple.

You can also close a position early to lock in profits or limit losses.

As an active trader, we know you are busy scanning markets each day. You are dealing with complexity all the time. The last thing you need is to be slowed down with more complications and hard to understand details with a brokerage.

When you trade, we know you want to focus on the market and your position, not on a series of unnecessarily complicated products.

So we built an innovative full service exchange to trade binary options that lets you do just that.

How do binary options work?

There are three concepts to learning more about how binary options work; the underlying market, strike price and time to expiration.

Become familiar with those three concepts and you’ll understand the basics of binary options.

Let’s walk through the three parts of each binary option trade:

With binary options the amount you pay is the maximum you can lose. Because of that we say your risk is capped.

Maybe you don’t want to wait until expiration. You can place an order to close your position to limit loss or lock in profit early.

Along with offering clear outcomes and defined risk, we also designed our binary options to work in a way that offers unique leverage that enables opportunities to profit even from small market movements.

1 The first step is to pick the assets or event you want to trade. Each one is based on an underlying market and your trade is based on that underlying markets price movement.

2 Then you want to find a strike price that works for you. The strike is the price level you think the market will be above or below at expiration.

3 When opening a trade you will select an expiration day and time. The expiration is the moment of truth traders live for. This is when trading is over and the value of your binary option is determined.

How risky are binary options?

You always know your binary option risk reward ratio before you enter into a new trade. Your trade is fully paid for up front, which means you will never lose more than you pay. You always know exactly what you have at risk.

Trading also offers the opportunity to profit. Just like you know what you have at risk, you will enter each trade knowing your maximum potential reward.

We’re serious about helping you understand and limit your risk. Our goal is to let you define and understand it clearly and upfront on every trade.

It’s why we’ve worked to design and offer an innovative way to define and cap risk while also providing an affordable way to trade.

You can start with one contract at a time for less than $100, and decide your maximum risk and reward up front when you set up the trade.

Here’s how that works:

If you buy a binary option contract for $30, hoping to have it end at $100, your profit target is $70. This is $100 less your $30 investment. A loss would never be more than $30 no matter how much the market moves.

We think that hard to understand margin requirements, complicated fees and confusing payout structures can make trading riskier than it needs to be.

You can make those things part of your past by trading binary options with us.

How are binary options regulated in the US?

Binary options are legal and available to trade in the US only on a Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) regulated United States exchange.

We are a full service exchange located in the heart of Chicago’s financial district and we are regulated by the CFTC.

As the leading United States based binary options and spreads exchange, we are proud to say we are designated by the CFTC as a Designated Contract Market and Derivatives Clearing Organization.

What this means for you is we are a well-regulated and leading binary options exchange.

Our role as the leading US based binary options exchange is to match buyers and sellers in a fair, accurate and secure way.

That way you can trade multiple global markets with us from one account knowing your trades are fair and your money is safe.

Binary options trading example.

Let’s walk through a trade on the EUR/USD currency pair.

Here is how the outcomes work at expiration:

  1. If the market is at or below 1.1600 at 3AM ET the seller will get the $100 payout.
  2. But if the market is one tick or more above 1.1600, you get the full payout as the buyer.

If you don’t want to wait until expiration, you can close your position at the current market price. Your profit or loss in that case is the difference between your entry and exit prices.

Each binary option reflects a question. In this case, the question is, will EUR/USD be above 1.16?

We show that as EUR/USD > 1.1600

In this example, the option has 4 hours til expiration and it’s 11pm.

If you think EUR/USD is going to be above $1.16 at 3AM, then you would then buy the binary.

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