Is My Options Trade “In The Money”? Here’s What You Need To Know To Profit…

The options world is full of terms that might sound a little foreign to novice traders. One term that’s critical to know relates to the “moneyness” of options. You may hear of a trade referred to as “in the money,” “out of the money,” or even “at the money.”

When it comes to options, knowing whether your contract is “in the money” or not can make or break your trade. So today we’ll break down just exactly what this means and how traders use it.

What Are In-the-Money Options?

As you may already know, options contracts give the holder the right to buy or sell an underlying security. This takes place in the form of a contract, meaning they agree to do so at a predetermined strike price for a limited amount of time. The options contract is trading “in the money” if the underlying security is trading at a price that makes the exercise of the option profitable based on the strike price.

In other words, an option is considered “in the money” if it has intrinsic value. The intrinsic value is the difference between the option’s strike price and the current market price of the underlying asset.

  • Call Options: A call option is ITM if the underlying asset’s current market price is higher than the option’s strike price.
  • Put Options: A put option is ITM if the underlying asset’s current market price is lower than the option’s strike price.

How In-the-Money Options Work

Consider a call option for Company XYZ with a strike price of $75. If the current market price of Company XYZ is $80, the option is ITM.

  • Strike Price: $75
  • Current Market Price: $80
  • Intrinsic Value: $80 – $75 = $5

The buyer of this option could exercise the option to buy shares of Company XYZ at $75 and immediately sell them at the current market price of $80, making a profit of $5 per share.

The following table shows the “moneyness” of calls and puts for a fictional XYZ stock trading at different prices at the $75 strike price.

in the money options

Remember, stock prices are always moving. So there’s the chance that an option will move ITM or, if it already is ITM, move further ITM during its “lifetime” (i.e., before it expires). This is referred to as time value, which puts a price on the potential for (and degree of) ITM movement. Any value that is not intrinsic value is time value. At an option’s expiration, there’s no time value remaining, and any remaining value is the option’s intrinsic value.

How Traders Use It

As stated earlier, when an option is in the money, it has intrinsic value. This is where the power of leverage really comes into play for traders. They will usually be able to participate in market moves with a smaller investment than they would if they simply bought or sold the underlying security.

For example, let’s say a trader believes that Stock ABC will move sharply higher after it announces its quarterly earnings. The stock is trading for $60 per share. The trader can buy 100 shares of ABC for an investment of about $6,000.

An in-the-money option would be any call with a strike price less than $60. So let’s say the trader bought a call with a strike price of $55 with 60 days until expiration. It was trading at $5.75 at the time of purchase, so they would be able to invest only $575. In this scenario, the trader should still be able to participate in 100% of ABC’s gains if the stock moves above $60.75. ($55 + $5.75)

If ABC reaches $66, the trader who bought 100 shares of the stock would make $600. That’s a 10% return on their investment. A trader buying an in-the-money call for $5.75 would earn $4.25 per share (or $425). The option would have $11 of intrinsic value, again ignoring transaction costs, and realize a return of 74% on their smaller investment.

Why It Matters

In-the-money options allow a trader to profit from a market move with a relatively small investment. This strategy also limits risk, since the trader cannot lose any more than the initial cost of the option.

Options sellers do face unlimited risk (theoretically). And their maximum gains will usually be limited to the amount they receive in premium. A seller may be motivated to sell an in-the-money call option when they believe a decline is likely and they want to capture the premium. Another reason to sell in-the-money options could include a desire to sell a stock the trader owns already, but with the goal of receiving a little more than the current market price.

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