What Is a Best Bid?

The term best bid refers to the highest quoted [rice available that somebody is willing to purchase a particular security, and so reflects the best price that somebody could sell at the market.

The best bid is the highest among all bids offered by competing market makers. Put simply, this is the highest price an investor is willing to pay for an asset. The way bids are placed depends on the type of security—stocks and bond bids are placed in prices and face value, respectively. Investors and traders who make the best bids normally win the order.

The best bid is complemented by the best ask (best offer), and together they make up the national best bid and offer (NBBO).

Key Takeaways

  • The best bid is the highest quoted offer price among buyers of a particular security or asset.
  • The best bid represents the highest price a seller could expect to receive from a market order.
  • The best bid and ask together make up the NBBO, which aggregates bids and offers from across exchanges.

Understanding Best Bids

Market participants place buy and sell orders when they wish to purchase securities. These orders are placed using bids, which are also called offers. This is the price the investor is willing to pay in order to acquire the asset along with the total quantity. Market makers also offer a price or value for which they're willing to sell the securities they hold.

The type of bid differs, depending on the kind of security that's up for sale. For instance, bids for stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and other related securities are made in dollars per share. Traders who wish to purchase bonds and other fixed-income instruments, on the other hand, make bids based on the face value of the security.

In some cases, there may be multiple bids for the same asset. When this happens, it's the best bid that wins. The best bid is the highest amount of money someone is willing to pay to acquire that security. The best bid takes into account the price and the total number of securities that the trader is willing to buy.

Let's say two traders want to purchase stock in Company A. In order to secure the purchase, they may try to outbid each other. Trader 1 may offer $10 for 20 shares or $200 while Trader 2 offers $20 for 20 shares for a total of $400. Based on this simple example, Trader 2 makes the best bid and is able to make the purchase.

The best bid is the complement of the best ask for a security.

Special Considerations

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requires a list of the best bids and offers available on exchanges. This list is called the National Best Bid and Offer (NBBO) and includes all of the ask or bid prices that are available when traders and investors buy or sell for their customers. The NBBO helps ensure that all investors receive the best possible price when executing trades through their broker without worrying about aggregating quotes from multiple exchanges or market makers before placing a trade. This helps to level the playing field for retail traders who may not have the resources to always seek out the best prices across multiple exchanges.

Active traders, short-term traders, and day traders will often look at Level 2 quotes that include all of the bids and ask prices for a particular trading instrument. The NBBO list is continually updated throughout the trading session so that customers are able to see the best available prices as they move throughout the day.

Institutional trading desks also show bids and offers for blocks of stock and securities. Those bids and offers could be on behalf of customers or the firm itself. However, most of the proprietary trading at banks and brokerages has been limited in recent years.

Example of a Best Bid

Say that an investor is looking to sell an existing long position of 100 shares of XYZ Corp. The online brokerage the investor uses shows a quote of 25.60 (x1,000) x 25.63 (x200), This indicates that the best bid is currently 25.60 (and for 1,000 shares), meaning that the investor is able to sell all 100 XYZ shares at that price.