Binary Options Trading – The definitive guide
Binaryoptions.net aims to provide the best resource for binary options trading in the United States. There has been huge growth in trading binary options, due mainly to their simple structure. As ever with new financial products, there have been issues that traders need to be aware of, and regulation has been slow to catch up with the growth.
Binary options however, remain an exciting, but high risk / high return form of investment and these pages should provide both new and experienced traders with the knowledge they need to make the right choices when it comes to binary options trading.
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What are Binary Options?
Binary options are a simple financial product which allow investors to choose whether an asset will go up or down over a set period. Returns are fixed and so is the trade size. This makes risk management and trading decisions much more simple. The outcome is always a Yes or No answer – hence the option being a “binary” option.
Once an option is opened, it will either result in a fixed payout or loss of the invested amount when the option expires. This takes the guess work out of choosing when to exit a losing or profitable trade.
While simple, binary options are a high risk / high reward trading option. Payouts can be as high as 95%, but the entire invested amount is at risk. They will not be suitable for every investor. Traders should ensure they fully understand binary options before trading them.
Binary Trading Basics
The most common type of binary option is the simple “Up/Down” trade. There are however, different types of option. The one common factor, is that the outcome will have a “binary” result (Yes or No). Here are some of the types available:
- Up/Down or High/Low – The basic and most common binary option. Will a price finish higher or lower than the current price a the time of expiry.
- In/Out, Range or Boundary – This option sets a “high” figure and “low” figure. Traders predict whether the price will finish within, or outside, of these levels (or ‘boundaries’).
- Touch/No Touch – These have set levels, higher or lower than the current price. The trader has to predict whether the actual price will ‘touch’ those levels at any point between the time of the trade an expiry.
Note with a touch option, that the trade can close before the expiry time – if the price level is touched before the option expires, then the “Touch” option will payout immediately, regardless of whether the price moves away from the touch level afterwards.
- Ladder – These options behave like a normal Up/Down trade, but rather than using the current strike price, the ladder will have preset price levels (‘laddered’ progressively up or down).These can often be some way from the current strike price.As these options generally need a significant price move, payouts will often go beyond 100% – but both sides of the trade may not be available.
How to Trade Binary Options
Below is a step by step guide to placing a binary trade:
- Choose a broker – Use our reviews and comparison tools to find the best broker for you. Visit the brokers page.
- Select the asset or market to trade – Assets lists are huge, and cover Commodities, Stocks, Forex or Indices. The price of oil, or the Apple stock price, for example.
- Select the expiry time – Options can expire anywhere between 30 seconds up to a year.
- Set the size of the trade – Remember 100% of the investment is at risk
- Click Call / Put or Buy / Sell – Will the asset value rise or fall? Some broker label buttons differently.
- Check and confirm the trade – Many brokers give traders a chance to ensure the details are correct before confirming the trade.
The number and diversity of assets you can trade with binary options varies from broker to broker. Most brokers provide binary options on popular assets such as major forex pairs including the EUR/USD, USD/JPY and GBP/USD, as well as major stock indices such as the FTSE, S&P 500 or Dow Jones Industrial. Commodities including gold, silver, oil are also generally offered.
Individual stocks and equities are also tradable through many binary brokers. Not every stock will be available though, but generally you can choose from about 25 to 100 popular stocks, such as Google and Apple. These lists are growing all the time as demand dictates.
The asset lists are always listed clearly on every trading platform, and most brokers make their full asset lists available on their website. Full asset list information is also available within our reviews.
The expiry time is the point at which a trade is closed and settled. The only exception is where a ‘Touch’ option has hit a preset level prior to expiry. The expiry for any given trade can range from 30 seconds, up to a year. While binaries initially started with very short expiries, demand has ensured there is now a broad range of expiry times available. Some brokers even give traders the flexibility to set their own specific expiry time.
Expiries are generally grouped into three categories:
- Short Term / Turbo – These are normally classed as any expiry under 5 minutes
- Normal – These would range from 5 minutes, up to ‘end of day’ expiries which expire when the local market for that asset closes.
- Long term – Any expiry beyond the end of the day would be considered long term. The longest expiry might be 12 months.
While slow to react to binary options initially, regulators around the world are now starting to regulate the industry and make their presence felt. The major regulators currently include:
- Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – UK regulator
- Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySec) – Cyprus Regulator, often ‘passported’ throughout the EU, under MiFID
- Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) – US regulator
There are also regulators operating in Malta and the Isle of Man. Many other authorities are now taking a keen a interest in binary options specifically, notably in Europe where domestic regulators are keen to bolster the CySec regulation.
Unregulated brokers still operate, and while some are trustworthy, a lack of regulation is a clear warning sign for potential new customers.
Is binary options trading legal in the USA?
Yes, trading binary options is legal in the US. The US binary options market is strictly regulated. These safeguards are in place to protect US residents, but trading is absolutely legal.
What is illegal, is for non-US based brokers (‘off shore’ brokers) to solicit US residents. It is this which has resulted in some binary options brokers receiving heavy fines, and the majority not accepting traders based in the USA. There are however, a number of options for US traders, where they can trade legally, at reputable brokers, fully regulated by the CFTC.
The US Binary options brokers list above, is tailored to display only brokers that accept US clients.
Binary options trading in the USA
Most binary options brokers operate accounts in USD. This is seen as the ‘global currency’ within the binary options industry and therefore US clients are free to trade with funds in their local currency.
Binary options brokers will generally have their trading platform open when the market of the underlying asset is open. So if trading the Nasdaq, DOW or S&P, the assets will be open to trade during the same hours as those markets are open.
Forex trading has no central market, and as such USD pairs can generally be traded around the clock for 5 days a week. Markets in Hong Kong, Europe and the US, mean that foreign currency can be traded 24 hours a day.
US Traders also have the option of using exchange traded binary options, or an over the counter (OTC) broker. So binary options trading in the US, generally delivers the same level of choice trading in Europe, but in a more closely regulated market.
Trading via your mobile has been made very easy as every major broker provides a fully developed mobile trading application. Most trading platforms have been designed with mobile device users in mind. So the mobile version will be very similar, if not the same, as the full web version.
Brokers will cater for both iOS and Android devices, and produce versions for each. Downloads are quick, and traders can sign up via the mobile site as well. Our reviews contain more detail about each brokers mobile app, but most are fully aware that this is a growing area of trading. Traders want to react immediately to news events and market updates, so brokers provide the tools for clients to trade wherever they are.
What Does Binary Options Mean?
‘Binary options’ means, put very simply, a trade where the outcome is a ‘binary’ Yes/No answer. These options pay a fixed amount if they win (known as “in the money”), but the entire investment is lost, if the binary trade loses. So “binary options” are fixed return financial options.
How Does a Stock Trade Work?
Steps to trade a stock via a binary option;
- Select the stock or equity.
- Identify the desired expiry time (The time the option will end).
- Enter the size of the trade or investment
- Decide if the value will rise or fall and place a put or call
The steps above will be the same at every single broker. More layers of complexity can be added, but when trading equities the simple Up/Down trade type remains the most popular.
Put and Call Options
Call and Put are simply the terms given to buying or selling an option. If a trader thinks the underlying price will go up in value, they can open a call. But where they expect the price to go down, they can place a put trade.
Different trading platforms label their trading buttons different, some even switch between Buy/Sell and Call/Put. Others drop the phrases put and call altogether. Almost every trading platform will make it absolutely clear which direction a trader is opening an option in.
Are Binary Options a Scam?
Binary options as a financial tool are not a scam. There are though, brokers, trading robots and signal providers that are untrustworthy and dishonest.
The point is not to write off the concept of binary options, based solely on a handful of dishonest brokers. The image of binary options has suffered as a result of these operators, but regulators are slowly starting to prosecute and fine the offenders and the industry is being cleaned up. Our forum is a great place to raise awareness of any wrongdoing.
These simple checks can help anyone avoid the scams:
- Marketing promising huge returns. This is clear warning sign. Binary options are a high risk / high reward tool – they are not a “make money online” scheme and should not be sold as such. Operators making such claims are very likely to be untrustworthy.
- Know the broker. Some operators will ‘funnel’ new customer to a broker they partner with, so the person has no idea who their account is with. A trader should know the broker they are going to trade with! These funnels often fall into the “get rich quick” marketing discussed earlier.
- Cold Calls. Professional brokers will not make cold calls – they do not market themselves in that way. Cold calls will often be from unregulated brokers interested only in getting an initial deposit. Proceed extremely carefully if joining a company that got in contact this way. This would include email contact as well – any form of contact out of the blue.
- Terms and Conditions. When taking a bonus or offer, read the full terms and conditions. Some will include locking in an initial deposit (in addition to the bonus funds) until a high volume of trades have been made. The first deposit is the trader’s cash – legitimate brokers would not claim it as theirs before any trading. Some brokers also offer the option of cancelling a bonus if it does not fit the needs of the trader.
- Do not let anyone trade for you. Avoid allowing any “account manager” to trade for you. There is a clear conflict of interest, but these employees of the broker will encourage traders to make large deposits, and take greater risks . Traders should not let anyone trade on their behalf.
Which Are The Best Trading Strategies?
Binary trading strategies are unique to each trade. We have a strategy section, and there are ideas that traders can experiment with. Technical analysis is of use to some traders, combined with charts and price action research. Money management might be good for other traders – ensuring risk management is applied to trading. Different styles will suit different traders and strategies will also evolve and change.
There is no single “best” strategy. Traders need to ask questions of their investing aims and risk appetite and then learn what works for them.
Are Binary Options Gambling?
This will depend entirely on the habits of the trader. With no strategy or research, then any investment is going to win or lose based only on luck. Conversely, a trader making a well researched trade will ensure they have done all they can to avoid relying on good fortune.
Binary options can be used to gamble, but they can also be used to make trades based on value and expected profits. So the answer to the question will come down to the trader.
Advantages of Binary Options Trading
The world is filled with a plethora of financial markets, and advances in technology has made it possible for each of these markets to be accessible to the average Joe who has an internet connection and a computer or mobile device.
As such, there may be some confusion as to what financial market to participate in. Forex has caught a lot of attention because the promises seen on the sales pages of forex brokers and vendors seem to point to it as a way of easy money. However, because this market has some peculiarities which traders must be thoroughly at home with, many unprepared traders have seen themselves at the wrong end of the market.
This is where binary options come to the rescue with its unique set of advantages over other forms of market trading.
Minimal Financial Risk
If you have traded forex or its more volatile cousins, crude oil or spot metals such as gold or silver, you will have probably learnt one thing: these markets carry a lot of risk and it is very easy to be blown off the market. Too many parameters affect trade outcomes that traders have to battle with. Things like leverage and margin, news events, slippages and price re-quotes, etc can all affect a trade negatively. This is why trading the currency and commodities markets is a risky venture. The situation is different in binary options trading. There is no leverage to contend with, and phenomena such as slippage and price re-quotes have no effect on binary option trade outcomes. This reduces the risk in binary option trading to the barest minimum. Unlike what obtains in other markets, many binary options brokers return a fraction of the amount used in purchasing binary options contracts when the trade is a losing one.
The binary options market allows traders to trade financial instruments spread across the currency and commodity markets as well as indices and bonds. This flexibility is unparalleled, and gives traders with the knowledge of how to trade these markets, a one-stop shop to trade all these instruments.
A binary trade outcome is based on just one parameter: direction. The trader is essentially betting on whether a financial asset will end up in a particular direction. In addition, the trader is at liberty to determine when the trade ends, by setting an expiry date. This gives a trade that initially started badly the opportunity to end well. This is not the case with other markets. For example, control of losses can only be achieved using a stop loss. Otherwise, a trader has to endure a drawdown if a trade takes an adverse turn in order to give it room to turn profitable. The simple point being made here is that in binary options, the trader has less to worry about than if he were to trade other markets.
Greater Control of Trades
Traders have better control of trades in binary options. For example, if a trader wants to buy a binary options contract, he knows in advance, what he stands to gain and what he will lose if the trade is out-of-the-money. This is not the case with other markets. For example, when a trader sets a pending order in the forex market to trade a high-impact news event, there is no assurance that his trade will be filled at the entry price or that a losing trade will be closed out at the exit stop loss. This is not the case with binary options trading.
The payouts per trade are usually higher in binary options than with other forms of trading. Some brokers offer payouts of up to 80% on a trade. This is achievable without jeopardising the account. In other markets, such payouts can only occur if a trader disregards all rules of money management and exposes a large amount of trading capital to the market, hoping for one big payout (which never occurs in most cases).
In order to trade the highly volatile forex or commodities markets, a trader has to have a reasonable amount of money as trading capital. For instance, trading gold, a commodity with an intra-day volatility of up to 10,000 pips in times of high volatility, requires trading capital in tens of thousands of dollars. This restricts the access of everyday people to such markets. However, binary options has much lower entry requirements, as some brokers allow people to start trading with as low as $10.
These advantages make binary options an attractive option for traders looking for a low-risk way of making money on the markets.
Disadvantages of Binary Options Trading
To give you a fair and balanced feel for the pros and cons of trading binary options, here are some of the disadvantages.
Reduced Trading Odds for Sure-Banker Trades
The payouts for binary options trades are drastically reduced when the odds for that trade succeeding are very high. While it is true that some trades offer as much as 85% payouts per trade, such high payouts are possible only when a trade is made with the expiry date set at some distance away from the date of the trade. Of course in such situations, the trades are more unpredictable.
Lack of Good Trading Tools
Some brokers do not offer truly helpful trading tools such as charts and features for technical analysis to their clients. As such, traders are virtually trading in the dark when trading binary options. Experienced traders can get around this by sourcing for these tools elsewhere; inexperienced traders who are new to the market are not as fortunate. This is changing for the better though, as operators mature and become aware of the need for these tools to attract traders.
Limitations on Risk Management
Unlike in forex where traders can get accounts that allow them to trade mini- and micro-lots on small account sizes, many binary option brokers set a trading floor; minimum amounts which a trader can trade in the market. This makes it easier to lose too much capital when trading binary options. As an illustration, a forex broker may allow you to open an account with $200 and trade micro-lots, which allows a trader to expose only acceptable amounts of his capital to the market. However, you will be hard put finding many binary options brokers that will allow you to trade below $50 on any binary options contract, even with a $200 account. In this situation, four losing trades will blow the account.
Cost of Losing Trades
Unlike in other markets where the risk – reward ratio can be controlled and set to give an edge to winning trades, the odds of binary options tilt the risk-reward ratio in favour of losing trades. In other words, traders lose more money when their trades end as losses than they can gain when their trades end up as profits. It is estimated that for every 70% profit in binary options trades that end up in profits, the corresponding loss of the same trade if it ends in a loss is 85%. The implication of this is that for a trader to break even, the winning percentage has to be at least 55%. It will therefore take a trader winning 6 trades out of ten to get into profit, but only 4 trades out of ten to end up in the red.
When trading a market like the forex or commodities market, it is possible to close a trade with minimal losses and open another profitable one, if a repeat analysis of the trade reveals the first trade to have been a mistake. This scenario cannot be replicated in binary options. The moment a trader has placed a trade in the binary options market, the value of his equity in the trade drops to reflect the trade commissions taken off by the broker. The payout on the reverse trade is fixed and cannot be used to cover the loss from the wrong trade.
It is obvious from the discussion that while binary options has many advantages that make it an attractive form of investment, it also has some pitfalls that every intending trader needs to be wary of in order to achieve trading success.
Spot Forex vs Binary Options Trading
Professional traders are often asked “Which do you prefer – Spot Forex or Binary Options trading?” and the answer is typically: “both!” They are two different alternatives, traded with two different psychologies. One is more TIME centric and the other is more PRICE centric. They both work in time/price but the focus you will find from one to the other is an interesting split. In my opinion most spot forex traders overlook time as a factor in their trading which is a very very big mistake where the average binary options trader has a more balanced view of time/price, which in turn simply makes him a more well rounded trader. Binary Options by their nature force one to exit a position within a given time frame win or lose which instills a greater focus on discipline and risk management. In forex trading this lack of discipline is the #1 cause for failure to most traders as they will simply hold losing positions for longer periods of time and cut winning positions in shorter periods of time. In binary options that is not possible as time expires your trade ends win or lose. Below are some examples of how this works.
Above is a trade made on the EUR/USD buying in an under 10 minute window of price and time. As a binary options trader this focus will naturally make you a better trader then the below example, where a spot forex trader who focuses on price while ignoring the time element ends up in trouble. This psychology of being able to focus on limits and the dual axis will aid you in becoming a better trader overall.
The very advantage of spot trading is its very same failure – the expansion of profits exponentially from 1 point in price. This is to say that if you enter a position that you believe will increase in value and the price does not increase yet accelerates to the downside, the normal tendency for most spot traders is to wait it out or worse add to the losing positions as they figure it will come back. The acceleration in time to the opposite desired direction causes most spot traders to be trapped in unfavourable positions, all because they do not plan time into their reasoning, and this leads to a complete lack of trading discipline.
The nature of binary options force one to have a more complete mindset of trading off both Y = Price Range and X = Time Range as limits are applied. Binary Options will simply make you a better overall trader from the start. Conversely on the flip side, they by their nature require a greater win rate as each bet means a 70-90% gain vs a 100% loss. So your win rate needs to be on average 54%-58% to break even. This imbalance causes many traders to overtrade or revenge trade which is just as bad as holding/adding to losing positions as a spot forex trader. To successfully trade you need to practice money management and emotional control.
In conclusion, when starting out as a trader, binary options might offer a better foundation to learn trading. The simple reasoning is that the focus on TIME/PRICE combined is like looking both ways when crossing the street. The average spot forex trader only looks at price, which means he is only looking in one direction before crossing the street. Learning to trade taking both time and price into consideration should aid in making one a much overall trader. This is why, if starting out in trading, that binary options offers the lowest cost, best training entry to the trading arena.