A:

In the United States, all options contracts go through one of several options exchanges. An investor must have an account with a brokerage firm that provides options trading as part of its product offerings. As a brokerage customer, your options orders will be routed through the brokerage firm to one of the options exchanges. Depending on the broker, you may be able to "route" your order to send it to a particular exchange, or the brokerage firm will use a standardized method for selecting the exchange to carry out the order.

Before you can trade options, your broker will approve you for a specific level of options trading. You will have to fill out an options agreement form that is used to evaluate your understanding of options and trading strategies and your general investing experience. Generally, brokerages have four or five levels of approval that are based on factors such as your investing objectives, investing history and your account balance.

Your options trading level, such as "conservative" or "aggressive," will determine the types of options strategies you will be able to trade. Since some strategies involve substantial risk, you may or may not be allowed to employ these riskier strategies, depending on your trading level. Typically, traders with more experience and more liquid assets are given higher approval levels; conversely, those with less experience and smaller accounts are given more conservative approval levels.

Once you have an account and have been approved for options trading, you can use the broker's trading platform to scan for positions that match your market outlook or strategy and to submit orders. Alternatively, you can phone in orders by calling the broker's trade desk.

There are other ways to trade options but they are not as common as routing orders through a broker. Over-the-counter (OTC) options are not traded via an exchange; instead, these contracts are executed between two independent parties. Since OTC options are not traded on exchanges, counter-party risk is not limited by the Options Clearing Corporation (OCC) as it is with exchange-traded options. Typically, only institutional traders or investors with large amounts of capital trade OTC options because of this increased financial risk. Well-capitalized professionals can also become members of one of the exchanges to place trades directly.

RELATED FAQS
  1. Is it possible to trade forex options?

    Yes. Options are available for trading in almost every type of investment that trades in a market. Most investors are familiar ... Read Answer >>
  2. How can I find out which stocks also trade as options?

    The trading of options has become increasingly popular among retail investors as they become aware of the many different ... Read Answer >>
  3. Does the seller (the writer) of an option determine the details of the option contract?

    The quick answer is yes and no. It all depends on where the option is traded. An option contract is an agreement between ... Read Answer >>
Related Articles
  1. Trading

    Pick the Right Brokerage Account for Options Trading

    Follow these steps to pick the right options brokerage account depending on your trading needs and style of trading.
  2. Trading

    Top U.S-Regulated Option Brokers

    Options trading requires amassing significant capital and then facing high volatility. To protect yourself, ensure you trade only with regulated brokers. Here is a list of top U.S.-regulated ...
  3. Trading

    The 4 Advantages of Options

    Flexible and cost efficient, options are more popular than ever. Find out why.
  4. Trading

    Trading Options on Futures Contracts

    Futures contracts are available for all sorts of financial products, from equity indexes to precious metals. Trading options based on futures means buying call or put options based on the direction ...
  5. Trading

    Stock Options: What's Price Got To Do With It?

    A thorough understanding of risk is essential in options trading. So is knowing the factors that affect option price.
  6. Trading

    Getting Started In Forex Options

    Stocks are not the only securities underlying options. Learn how to use FOREX options for profit and hedging.
  7. Trading

    These Are The Top Brokerage Firms For Options Trading

    Trading options? Here is the list of the best brokerage firms for options trading, with features, functionality, and brokerage rates.
RELATED TERMS
  1. Exchange-Traded Option

    An option traded on a regulated exchange where the terms of each ...
  2. Exotic Option

    An option that differs from common American or European options ...
  3. Option Agreement

    1. A signed agreement between an investor who is seeking to open ...
  4. Optionable Stock

    A stock that has options trading on a market exchange. Not all ...
  5. Forex Option & Currency Trading Options

    A security that allows currency traders to realize gains without ...
  6. OTC Options

    Exotic options traded on the over-the-counter market, where participants ...
Hot Definitions
  1. Tender Offer

    An offer to purchase some or all of shareholders' shares in a corporation. The price offered is usually at a premium to the ...
  2. Ponzi Scheme

    A fraudulent investing scam promising high rates of return with little risk to investors. The Ponzi scheme generates returns ...
  3. Dow Jones Industrial Average - DJIA

    The Dow Jones Industrial Average is a price-weighted average of 30 significant stocks traded on the New York Stock Exchange ...
  4. Revolving Credit

    A line of credit where the customer pays a commitment fee and is then allowed to use the funds when they are needed. It is ...
  5. Marginal Utility

    The additional satisfaction a consumer gains from consuming one more unit of a good or service. Marginal utility is an important ...
  6. Contango

    A situation where the futures price of a commodity is above the expected future spot price. Contango refers to a situation ...
Trading Center