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Difference Between Options and Futures Trading

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Distinguishing between options and futures trading is essential for navigating the dynamic landscape of financial markets. While both involve derivative contracts, they differ significantly in their structures and potential outcomes. Options grant the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell an asset at a predetermined price, offering flexibility. In contrast, futures contracts obligate both parties to execute the transaction at a future date, introducing a commitment that defines these financial instruments. Understanding these disparities is crucial for investors aiming to harness the distinct advantages each avenue provides in pursuit of their financial goals.

Options Vs Futures

Both options and futures are standardised contracts traded on Indian stock exchanges like NSE or BSE (in India). The critical distinction lies in their execution and obligations, influencing traders’ approaches to risk management.


  • Options contracts are executed on the expiry date, offering the flexibility for traders to choose whether or not to engage in the transaction. This allows for strategic decision-making based on market conditions, providing a level of control.
  • Contrastingly, futures contracts, while executed on the expiry date, impose both the right and obligation to buy or sell a specific asset, adhering to stock exchange regulations. This commitment distinguishes futures trading from options and introduces a level of certainty in transactions.

Risk Management and Diversification

  • Trading futures necessitates opening a margin account and settling contracts daily, making it a more commitment-intensive process.
  • In contrast, only option selling demands a similar commitment. These approaches aid traders in mitigating risk and diversifying their financial portfolios.


A crucial distinction emerges in the event of significant losses. Unlike futures, options traders can avoid executing trades, simply paying the premium required to purchase the contract. This flexibility becomes a major differentiator in the options vs. futures debate.

Lot Size and Trading Dynamics

Another significant difference lies in the ability to trade in lots. While futures and options contracts can be traded in lots, the size is determined by the stock exchange and can vary between different shares. This dynamic aspect of lot sizes adds another layer to the comparison between options and futures trading.

Illustrating the Difference through a Scenario

To illustrate the difference, consider a futures contract where the share price of XYZ company is ₹100 and increases to ₹150. This allows the trader to exercise the right and sell at the higher price, making a profit. Conversely, in options trading, there is no obligation to buy or sell, providing flexibility in decision-making during market fluctuations.

Important Terms of Options and Futures

Options Trading Terms

  • Call Option: A contract granting the right to buy an asset at a predetermined price within a specified timeframe.
  • Put Option: A contract providing the right to sell an asset at a predetermined price within a specified timeframe.
  • Premium: The price paid for an options contract, representing its value.
  • Strike Price: The pre-set price at which the underlying asset can be bought (for a call) or sold (for a put).
  • Expiration Date: The date when the options contract expires and becomes invalid.

Futures Trading Terms

  • Futures Contract: An agreement obligating the buyer to purchase or the seller to sell a specific asset at a predetermined future price and date.
  • Margin: The initial amount deposited by a trader to open a futures position.
  • Long Position: Holding a futures contract with the expectation that the asset’s price will rise.
  • Short Position: Holding a futures contract with the expectation that the asset’s price will fall.
  • Mark-to-Market: The daily adjustment of a margin account to reflect profits or losses in a futures position.

Common Terms

  • Derivative: Financial instruments, like options and futures, whose value is derived from an underlying asset.
  • Lot Size: The standardised quantity of assets in a single options or futures contract.
  • Risk Management: Strategies employed to minimise potential losses in trading positions.
  • Hedging: Using options or futures to offset potential losses in an existing investment.
  • Expiration Cycle: The frequency at which options contracts expire, categorised as monthly, quarterly, or annually.

Who Trades Futures?

The futures market caters to both commodity producers and traders.

  • Traders utilise futures contracts to speculate on market movements, providing protection against volatile price swings for both buyers and sellers.
  • Institutional and retail traders alike aim to profit from anticipated or unforeseen changes in futures prices.
  • Utilise Share India’s options calculator for tasks like pricing options, identifying breakeven points, and evaluating risks in your trading endeavours.

Margins and Premiums

In this discussion, examining margins and premiums is crucial.

  • Margin is the payment to a broker when purchasing a futures contract, serving as protection against potential losses. It varies among assets, typically a percentage of total trades.
  • Conversely, a premium is the fee paid to an option writer for buying an option contract.

In high-volume trades, both margin and premium leverage transactions. For instance, if 10% of a trade is ₹10,000, paid to the broker, it facilitates a transaction of ₹1,00,000. While this amplifies exposure and potential profits, it also introduces risks if the trade goes unfavourably.

Unlike stocks requiring complete funds, futures necessitate only a small percentage of the overall trade, enhancing trading flexibility. However, the downside is the risk of significant losses if the trade doesn’t unfold as expected, prompting a margin call from the broker to cover unexpected requirements.

Futures gains are marked-to-market daily, reflecting market changes. In case of falling prices, a margin call may demand additional funds. The trade settlement occurs through the delivery of shares or cash on the expiry date, or traders can square off futures or options contracts by purchasing identical ones before expiration, providing versatility in managing positions.


The distinction between options and futures trading lies in their execution, obligations, and risk profiles. Options provide flexibility, granting the right without the obligation to buy or sell, offering strategic maneuverability. On the other hand, futures involve both the right and obligation, adding a level of commitment. Risk management varies, with options allowing traders to exit without executing trades during losses, unlike the binding nature of futures. Both play vital roles in financial markets, offering diverse strategies for investors to navigate and capitalise on market dynamics according to their risk tolerance and financial objectives.

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