How to start trading options

As you consider trading options, use the resources here to help you understand the application process and review answers to frequently asked questions to get started.

Things to know before you apply

Apply online

If you have an account, you can apply onlineLog In Required. Please be ready to provide the following:

  • Yearly income
  • Trading experience
  • Net worth and liquid net worth

Approval time

We'll let you know which options tier you're approved to trade—either by email in 1 to 2 days or by US Mail generally within 3 to 5 days. You can also check the status of your application online.



Frequently asked questions

Getting started

  • Why might you consider trading options?
    Depending on the investment outlook, an individual investor, fund manager, or financial institution might trade options to invest, help generate income, and/or manage risk, among other reasons.
  • Who can trade options?
    Anyone can trade options in their brokerage account, if approved. At Fidelity, this requires completing an options application that asks questions about your financial situation and investing experience, and reading and signing an options agreement. It is also possible to trade some options strategies in other types of accounts, such as an IRA.
  • What are options tiers?
    Options trading strategies involve varying degrees of risk and complexity. Not all strategies are suitable for all investors. There are 3 tiers of options trading at Fidelity, and approval requirements are more rigorous at subsequent tiers, given the additional risks associated with more complex strategies. Your financial situation, trading experience, and investment objectives are taken into consideration for approval.
  • What options strategies can you trade in an individual retirement account (IRA)?
    Options trading on IRAs includes:
    • Buy-writes
    • Selling covered calls
    • Rolling covered calls
    • Buying calls/puts
    • Selling cash covered puts
    • Long straddles/strangles
    • Spreads (up to 4 legs)
  • What strategies can you trade with options Tier 1?
    Options Tier 1 includes:
    • Buy-writes
    • Selling covered calls
    • Rolling covered calls
    • Buying calls/puts
    • Selling cash covered puts
    • Long straddles/strangles
  • What strategies can you trade with options Tier 2?
    Options Tier 2 includes:
    • Buy-writes
    • Selling covered calls
    • Rolling covered calls
    • Buying calls/puts
    • Selling cash covered puts
    • Long straddles/strangles
    • Spreads (up to 4 legs)
    • Selling covered puts-short stock secured
  • What strategies can you trade with options Tier 3?
    Options Tier 3 includes:
    • Buy-writes
    • Selling covered calls
    • Rolling covered calls
    • Buying calls/puts
    • Selling cash covered puts
    • Long straddles/strangles
    • Spreads (up to 4 legs)
    • Selling covered puts-short stock secured
    • For stocks, ETFs, and Indexes
      • Selling uncovered calls/puts
      • Short straddles
  • What is the primary benefit of buying options?

    One of the benefits of buying options is the leverage that options can provide while potentially limiting the amount of capital at risk.

  • What are the key risks of buying options?

    There are unique risks associated with buying options, compared with buying stock. The primary risk is that the options expire worthless and you lose your investment. Another consideration is that typically when buying options, the underlying security will need more directional movement before the strategy will net a potential gain compared to directly using the underlying security (aka lower probability).

Trading considerations

  • What are the key decisions you make when buying or selling options?

    Key decisions for trading options are based on several factors, including the following:

    • The outlook of the underlying security price direction (bullish, bearish, and even neutral)
    • The time frame (include binary events)
    • How long you need for the trade to work
    • If you are buying or selling
    • Implied volatility

    Outlooks on these elements will help a trader select the action (buying or selling), amount of contracts, call or put, expiration, strike, order type (market or limit), and the premium the contract is worth. Another key decision is the exit plan which the trader should consider from the loss side and the profit side.

    The underlying security (what is your forecast: bullish or bearish), the trade amount, the number of options, the strike price, the premium, the expiration date, the type of order, and your exit plan.
  • What does in the money/out of the money/at the money mean?

    Call options are considered in the money when the stock price is trading above the strike price, and are considered out of the money when the stock price is trading below the strike price. For puts, options are considered in the money if the stock price is trading below the strike price, and are considered out of the money if the stock price is trading above the strike price. Both call and put options are considered at the money when the stock and the strike price are equal or near. Stock options that are $0.01 or more in the money at the time of expiration will be automatically exercised.

  • What is time value?
    An option's premium is made up of 2 components: time value and intrinsic value. Time value can be considered a measure of uncertainty—the potential that the option could hold more intrinsic value in the future.
  • What is intrinsic value?
    An option's premium is made up of 2 components: time value and intrinsic value. Intrinsic value is the measure of the true value of the right the option represents. It is the difference between the stock price and the strike price.
  • What does it mean to exercise an option?

    To exercise an option means to take action on the right to buy (call) or sell (put) the underlying position in an option contract at the predetermined strike price, at or before expiration.

  • What factors determine an option contract's price?

    An option's contract price is determined by several factors including the price of the underlying, strike price of the contract, the underlying asset's volatility, time until expiration, any dividends that are payable during the life of the contract, and the risk-free interest rate.

  • What should you consider when picking a strike price?

    There are several factors to consider when picking a strike price: Moneyness, time, and liquidity. For moneyness, in-the-money options are relatively more expensive than out-of-the-money options. For time, holding all else unchanged, a contract with a longer life implies a greater probability that the option will be in the money before expiration. However, it will also cost more than a similar option with less time until expiration. For liquidity, consider almost always looking for options that meet your objectives with small bid-ask spreads if you want to consider reducing your trading costs.

Learn more about options

While options can offer diversification in your portfolio, they’re not appropriate for everyone as they can carry substantial risk. Visit our Learning Center to increase your options knowledge with guided education, including on-demand webinars, for every experience level.

Ready to get started?