The option ticker explains four main things about the option: the underlying stock, whether it is a call or a put option, the expiration month and the strike price. An option ticker is quoted by a series of letters. This is a lot of information crammed into one ticker, but we can help you decode option ticker symbols.

Option Ticker Structure
An option ticker can be broken down into three parts. The first part of the option ticker is the option symbol, which can vary in letter length. Typically, this symbol will be found on all the options of the company and will be identical to the stock symbol. However, this is not an absolute. For example, Microsoft's ticker is MSFT, while its option symbol is quoted as both MSQ and MFQ. The second part of the option ticker is the expiration date and the call or put classification of the option, and it consists of a single letter. There are 12 possible expiration periods for options - one per month. Options classified from A to L are call options and M to X are put options. The third part to the option ticker is the strike price of the option, and this is also a single letter. Because there is a wide range of potential strike prices and a limited number of letters, each letter represents more than one strike price. This creates the need for a bit of guesswork, but nothing overly complex.

Here is a visual breakdown of an Oct. 05 35.00 Merck Option:


To help you decode any option ticker, we are providing you with a code sheet:

Now that you have your option ticker code breaker, let's try an example:

GMIU - The last two letters provide information pertaining to the terms of the contract. This leaves the other two letters as the option symbol (GM). Again, the second part of the ticker (I) explains the month of expiry and whether it is a call or a put. Looking at the above chart, we see that this is a call option that expires in September. The third part (U) is a bit trickier: if we know that this is a General Motors option and the current stock price is $31.50, we can easily find that the strike price of this option is $37.50. By looking at the option ticker, we now know that it is a Sept. 37.50 GM call option.

When it comes to the strike price, it is important to remember that strike prices for most options do not vary a great deal from the current stock price. For example, it is rare that you would be able to purchase an option with a strike price of $500 that has a stock price of only $15.

Be warned that in the event of stock restructurings, like five for seven stock splits or mergers, there may be no way to use the codes above to find out information about the option. If such a restructuring occurs, the exchange on which the option is traded will change the option ticker symbol accordingly.

For further reading, see our Option Basics Tutorial.

  1. How do hedge funds use equity options?

    With the growth in the size and number of hedge funds over the past decade, the interest in how these funds go about generating ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Can mutual funds invest in options and futures?

    Mutual funds invest in not only stocks and fixed-income securities but also options and futures. There exists a separate ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How does a forward contract differ from a call option?

    Forward contracts and call options are different financial instruments that allow two parties to purchase or sell assets ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. How can an investor profit from a fall in the utilities sector?

    The utilities sector exhibits a high degree of stability compared to the broader market. This makes it best-suited for buy-and-hold ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are the main risks associated with trading derivatives?

    The primary risks associated with trading derivatives are market, counterparty, liquidity and interconnection risks. Derivatives ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What is the difference between derivatives and options?

    Options are one category of derivatives. Other types of derivatives include futures contracts, swaps and forward contracts. ... Read Full Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Credit & Loans

    Pre-Qualified Vs. Pre-Approved - What's The Difference?

    These terms may sound the same, but they mean very different things for homebuyers.
  2. Options & Futures

    Cyclical Versus Non-Cyclical Stocks

    Investing during an economic downturn simply means changing your focus. Discover the benefits of defensive stocks.
  3. Insurance

    Cashing in Your Life Insurance Policy

    Tough times call for desperate measures, but is raiding your life insurance policy even worth considering?
  4. Fundamental Analysis

    Using Decision Trees In Finance

    A decision tree provides a comprehensive framework to review the alternative scenarios and consequences a decision may lead to.
  5. Options & Futures

    Understanding The Escrow Process

    Learn the 10 steps that lead up to closing the deal on your new home and taking possession.
  6. Options & Futures

    Terrorism's Effects on Wall Street

    Terrorist activity tends to have a negative impact on the markets, but just how much? Find out how to take cover.
  7. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Scared By ETF Risks? Try Hegding With ETF Options

    With more ETFs to trade, the risks associated with these investments have grown. To mitigate these risks, ETF options are a hedging strategy for traders.
  8. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    ETF Options Vs Index Options

    Investors have much to consider when they’re deciding between ETF and index options. Here's help in making the decision.
  9. Options & Futures

    How to use Straddle Strategies

    Discover how this sophisticated trading technique can unlock significant gains while reducing your losses.
  10. Options & Futures

    Top 4 Apps for Option Traders

    Discover some of the most popular apps that options traders use so they can stay on top of market opportunities and manage their investments.
  1. Crude Oil

    Crude oil is a naturally occurring, unrefined petroleum product ...
  2. Leg

    A leg is one component of a derivatives trading strategy, in ...
  3. Grant

    The issuance of an award, such as a stock option, to key employees ...
  4. Put-Call Parity

    A principle that defines the relationship between the price of ...
  5. Maturity

    The period of time for which a financial instrument remains outstanding. ...
  6. Employee Stock Option - ESO

    A stock option granted to specified employees of a company. ESOs ...

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Take A Bath

    A slang term referring to the situation of an investor who has experienced a large loss from an investment or speculative ...
  2. Black Friday

    1. A day of stock market catastrophe. Originally, September 24, 1869, was deemed Black Friday. The crash was sparked by gold ...
  3. Turkey

    Slang for an investment that yields disappointing results or turns out worse than expected. Failed business deals, securities ...
  4. Barefoot Pilgrim

    A slang term for an unsophisticated investor who loses all of his or her wealth by trading equities in the stock market. ...
  5. Quick Ratio

    The quick ratio is an indicator of a company’s short-term liquidity. The quick ratio measures a company’s ability to meet ...
  6. Black Tuesday

    October 29, 1929, when the DJIA fell 12% - one of the largest one-day drops in stock market history. More than 16 million ...
Trading Center