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.

  1. Do penny stocks trade after hours?

    Penny stocks are common shares of public companies that trade at a low price per share. These companies are normally small, ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. 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 >>
  3. 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 >>
  4. 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 >>
  5. What are common delta hedging strategies?

    The term delta refers to the change in price of an underlying stock or exchange-traded fund (ETF) as compared to the corresponding ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How do I determine the breakeven point for a short put?

    The breakeven point for a short put is the strike price of the option minus the premium. Selling puts is a way for traders ... 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. Bonds & Fixed Income

    Credit Default Swaps: An Introduction

    This derivative can help manage portfolio risk, but it isn't a simple vehicle.
  6. Options & Futures

    Understanding The Escrow Process

    Learn the 10 steps that lead up to closing the deal on your new home and taking possession.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Options & Futures

    How to use Straddle Strategies

    Discover how this sophisticated trading technique can unlock significant gains while reducing your losses.
  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