Options Strike Prices: How They Work, Definition, and Examples


Understanding option strike prices is crucial for anyone diving into the world of options trading. It’s the predetermined price at which an option can be exercised, and it plays a vital role in determining the value and profitability of an option contract.

Simplifying option strike prices

Options trading is a popular method used by investors to hedge, speculate or generate income. At the heart of options trading lies the concept of the “strike price.” This is a foundational concept every trader should grasp. Let’s delve deeper into understanding what it means and its significance.


An option strike price, often simply termed as the strike, is the predetermined price at which the holder of an option can buy (in case of a call option) or sell (in case of a put option) the underlying asset when the option is exercised.

Role in options trading

The strike price is crucial in options trading because it determines the option’s intrinsic value. An option is considered “in the money” if it has intrinsic value and “out of the money” if it doesn’t. This classification greatly affects the option’s premium and the decision of the trader to exercise it.


Here’s a list of the benefits and drawbacks of selecting specific strike prices.

  • Allows traders to tailor strategies to market expectations.
  • Flexibility in choosing risk and reward profiles.
  • Can help in hedging and mitigating potential losses.
  • Incorrect predictions can lead to significant losses.
  • Complexity increases with multiple strike prices.
  • Requires constant monitoring and understanding of market movements.

Option strike price examples in action

Options trading might seem daunting without real-world examples. Let’s illustrate the significance of the strike price with a few practical scenarios:

Call Option – Stock Going Up

Imagine you purchase a call option for Company A’s stock at a strike price of $50, expecting the stock to rise. The option’s premium (cost) is $5.
Two weeks later, Company A’s stock is trading at $60. Since you have the right to buy the stock at $50, you can immediately sell it at the current market price of $60, making a profit of $10 per share. Deducting the $5 premium, your net profit is $5 per share.

Put Option – Stock Going Down

Imagine you buy a put option for Company B’s stock at a strike price of $100, thinking the stock might drop. The option’s premium is $7.
A month later, Company B’s stock price declines to $85. With your put option, you have the right to sell the stock at $100 even though it’s currently worth only $85 in the market. By doing this, you gain a profit of $15 per share. After accounting for the $7 premium, you net $8 per share in profit.

Option Expiring Worthless

Suppose you’re optimistic about Company C’s future and buy a call option with a strike price of $40 and a premium of $3. Unfortunately, the stock price only reaches $41 by the expiration date. If you consider the $3 premium, exercising the option would result in a net loss of $2 per share. In this scenario, you’d likely let the option expire worthless and lose the premium paid.

Frequently asked questions

What does “in-the-money” mean in options trading?

In-the-money (ITM) describes a situation where an option has intrinsic value. For call options, it means the stock’s current price is above the strike price. For put options, it’s when the stock’s current price is below the strike price.

How about “out-of-the-money” and “at-the-money”?

Out-of-the-money (OTM) options have no intrinsic value. For calls, the stock price is below the strike price, and for puts, it’s above. At-the-money (ATM) means the stock price and the strike price are essentially equal, resulting in minimal or no intrinsic value.

Why would anyone buy an out-of-the-money option?

Traders might buy OTM options because they’re less expensive and offer higher potential returns if the stock moves significantly in the desired direction. However, they also come with a higher risk of expiring worthless.

Can strike prices be fractional or are they always whole numbers?

While most commonly in whole numbers, strike prices can sometimes be in fractions, especially for stocks that have undergone splits or other corporate actions.

How are strike prices determined?

Exchange and regulatory bodies usually set strike prices. They base these on the stock’s current price, and the intervals between strike prices can vary depending on the stock’s overall price level.

Do all options have the same strike prices?

No. Options on the same stock can have multiple available strike prices, providing traders a range of choices depending on their risk tolerance and market outlook.

How does time decay impact an option’s value relative to its strike price?

Time decay, or “theta,” is the rate at which an option loses value as it approaches its expiration date. As time passes, the probability that the option will finish in-the-money decreases, which can erode its value, especially if the option is out-of-the-money.

What happens if my option is at-the-money at expiration?

If an option is at-the-money at expiration, it usually expires worthless since it has no intrinsic value. It’s essential to check with your broker, though, as some might automatically exercise any option that has even a minimal amount of intrinsic value.

Key takeaways

  • An option strike price is the price at which an option can be exercised.
  • It plays a crucial role in determining the option’s intrinsic value.
  • Strike prices help traders strategize according to their market expectations.
  • Options can be “in the money” or “out of the money” based on the relationship between the strike price and the current market price of the underlying asset.
  • Choosing strike prices requires an understanding of market movements and can involve risks.
View Article Sources
  1. Options Basics – U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
  2. Introduction to Options – Department of Agricultural Economics
  3. What Happens When a Call Option Expires? – SuperMoney