What’s the difference between futures and options?


The difference between futures and options lies in the obligation passed on to you when you purchase them. They are both financial contracts you would open to trade on a wide variety of markets. You’re required to settle your trade in full with futures. But with options, you can simply choose not to and pay the premium – also known as the deposit or margin.

As both futures and options are leveraged, they both have expiry dates, upon which you would settle the difference between the contract’s opening and closing price.

It’s important to note that while trading leveraged derivatives amplifies profits, it also magnifies losses. That’s because both are based on the full value of the trade, not the margin used to open it. If the market moves against you, you may lose more than your original. It’s important to manage your risk when trading leveraged derivatives.

Both options and futures are exchange-traded derivatives (ETDs), and can be traded over the counter (OTC) with us using a CFD account. By trading futures and options OTC with us, you’re guaranteed easier market access, you may get certain tax benefits and you won’t have to sign contracts or take delivery of the underlying futures and options you trade.

To help understand the difference between futures and options, we have included a detailed breakdown of each.

What are futures?


Futures are derivative financial contracts between a buyer and a seller, in which they both agree on a price and expiry date to exchange an underlying market for. When these two parties enter a futures contract, the buyer is obligated to buy the underlying market, and the seller is obligated to sell it, at or before the contract’s predetermined expiry date and price.

Futures are often used to hedge against anticipated but undesirable price changes in an underlying market to protect against losses. For example, a company may buy futures in a specific commodity to hedge against the possibility of said commodity’s price rising.

This is because buying a commodity’s futures contract means companies can lock in a price, and the price for the futures contract will remain the same – even if the underlying commodity’s price rises.

What are options?


Options are financial derivative contracts that give the buyer the right to buy or sell an underlying asset at a price and expiry date, which is agreed upon between the buyer and the seller. The buyer will pay a premium – also known as a margin – for each contract. This margin is based on the expiry date of the contract and the strike price, which is the price for buying or selling an underlying asset until the expiry date.

Unlike with futures, investors who purchase options contracts are under no obligation to sell or buy the underlying asset when the contract expires (or if the strike price moves beyond the price range before the expiry). They can simply choose to pay the premium and not exercise their right to buy or sell.

You can buy or sell options if you believe a market’s price will rise or fall. You can purchase an option to buy – known as a call option – if you think the market will rise. If you think the market will fall, you can purchase an option to sell – known as a put option.

Futures vs options: how to trade


With us, you can trade futures or options with CFDs. You can also trade CFDs on spot prices. Using CFDs to trade futures or options gives you exposure to their markets, but you aren’t required to take on any obligations or worry about the complexity associated with options and futures trading.

By using financial derivatives, you’ll be able to speculate on rising and falling market conditions of the underlying asset. This is because you can ‘buy’ (or go long) when you feel a market is going to rise or ‘sell’ (go short) when you believe it’ll fall. This also allows you to escape the institutionally dominated space of traditional futures trading.

The margin for ‘buying’ an option is the opening price (or premium) multiplied by the size of the bet. This is the maximum amount that the bet can lose. The margin for ‘selling’ an option is the same as the margin incurred when trading the underlying futures market.

CFDs allow you to trade a wide variety of financial markets, like forex, commodities, indices, equities and more.

We also offer spot trading, which allows you to trade on the current market of an underlying asset with no fixed expiry date. Spot prices have tighter spreads, but they also require you to pay overnight funding. This makes spot trading ideal for intraday traders.


CFD markets for futures, options and spot

Futures vs options summed up


  • Both futures and options are financial contracts used to speculate on a market’s price movements
  • Futures and options differ in the obligation passed onto the contract buyer. With futures you are required to settle your trade in full, but with options you can choose to pay the margin, or deposit
  • You can trade futures and options with us on your CFD account, allowing you to trade without any obligations or the need to understand the nuances of the contract.