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American Option

Category — Bond Option Types
By Konstantin Vasilev Member of the Board of Directors of Cbonds, Ph.D. in Economics
Updated September 11, 2023

What is an American option?

An American option, also known as an American-style option, is a variant of an options contract that grants holders the flexibility to exercise their option privileges at any point up to and including the expiration date. This stands in contrast to the European option, which permits execution solely on the expiration date.

The American-style option empowers investors to seize profits promptly when the stock price shifts advantageously, and it also facilitates capitalizing on dividend declarations.

American Option

How American style options work

American-style options operate by granting the holder the flexibility to exercise their entitlement at any point prior to the contract’s maturity date. In contrast, European option contracts can only be executed on the day of maturity. The majority of securities traded on exchanges today adhere to the American option model. These contracts are defined by a minimum of four key variables:

  1. Underlying asset. This encompasses common and preferred stock, commodities, interest rates, and derivatives.

  2. Premium. The cost paid during the purchase or sale of an option.

  3. Strike price. The value at which the contract holder holds the right to either sell (put option) or buy (call option) the underlying asset.

  4. Maturity date. Also known as the expiry date, the option loses its value if not exercised on this specific date.

American style options types

There are two variants of American options based on the rights they confer to their holders:

  1. Call option, representing a long position, permits the investor to purchase the underlying asset at a pre-established price (known as the strike price) before or on the expiration date.

  2. Put option, embodying a short position, grants investors the ability to vend the underlying asset at the strike price at any point leading up to the option’s expiration.

The capacity to acquire or sell securities at a predetermined price holds significant value for investors, as it empowers them to capitalize on fluctuations in the underlying asset’s value.

Specifically, when the stock price rises, call options allow investors to procure securities at a price lower than the prevailing market rate. Conversely, triggering a put option in times of declining underlying asset prices enables investors to sell securities at a price higher than the prevailing market rate. In both scenarios, investors realize profits.

Advantages and disadvantages of American style options

Advantages of American Options

  1. Flexibility in Exercise. Investors benefit from the liberty to execute the option at their convenience, even if the asset’s price exceeds the strike price before the expiration date.

  2. Pre-Ex-Dividend Exercise. The option to exercise prior to the ex-dividend date permits holders to own the underlying stocks and qualify for dividends in the subsequent period.

  3. Optimized Profit Utilization. American options enable investors to reinvest profits swiftly, promoting more active engagement in the market.

Disadvantages of American Options

  1. Higher Premium. American-style options entail a greater upfront cost, factoring in the premium, which affects the overall profitability of the trade.

  2. Unavailable for Index Option Contracts. American options are not accessible for index option contracts, limiting their application in certain investment scenarios.

  3. Potential Missed Appreciation. There’s a possibility of forgoing additional option appreciation if the decision is made to exercise the option before its expiration date.


Scenario 1

In March, an investor acquires an American-style call option for Apple Inc. (AAPL) with an expiration date at the end of December of the same year. The premium for the option contract is $5, and each contract represents 100 shares ($5 x 100 = $500). The option’s strike price is $100. As the stock price climbs to $150 per share:

The investor exercises the call option on Apple prior to its expiration, procuring 100 AAPL shares at the $100 strike price. Effectively, the investor holds 100 AAPL shares at the predetermined price. The investor promptly sells these shares at the current market rate of $150 per share, yielding a profit of $50 per share.

In total, the investor earns $5,000 in profit, deducting the initial premium of $500 paid for the option and any associated broker commissions.

Scenario 2

Assuming an investor anticipates a decrease in the value of shares of Meta Inc. (META), they purchase an American-style July put option in January. This option matures in September of the same year. The premium for the option contract amounts to $3, and each contract represents 100 shares ($3 x 100 = $300). The strike price for the option is $150. As Meta’s stock price declines to $90 per share:

The investor exercises the put option, resulting in a short position of 100 META shares at the $150 strike price. This translates to the investor buying 100 META shares at the current price of $90 and then selling them at the $150 strike price. The net difference is settled, and the investor realizes a profit of $60 per option contract.

Ultimately, the investor earns $6,000 in profit, factoring in the initial premium of $300 paid for the option, along with any broker commissions.

Scenario 3

Consider a scenario where an investor anticipates a forthcoming decline in the value of Microsoft Corporation stocks. To capitalize on this projection, the investor acquires an American put option with a $100 strike price, despite MSFT stock’s current market value of $110.

The investor incurs a cost of $5 per share as a premium for the put option, thus investing a total of $500 for 100 shares.

Over time, the value of MSFT shares drops to $70 each, enabling the investor to trigger the put option and vend their shares at the predetermined $100 strike price. This transaction yields a gain of $30 per share, amounting to a cumulative profit of $3,000 for all 100 shares.

After subtracting the $500 paid as premium for the put option, the investor’s net profit from the Microsoft Corporation stocks’ downturn reaches $2,500.

Nevertheless, if the investor’s projections fail to materialize and the value of MSFT stocks rises rather than falls, the investor refrains from exercising the option and absorbs the loss of the $500 invested in the premium.

To mitigate the risk of total losses, the investor must take proactive measures and salvage some value before the option’s expiry date approaches. One strategy involves attempting to sell the option in the secondary market at a reduced premium, thereby offsetting losses and exiting the trade.

When to consider early exercise

Frequently, holders of American-style options opt not to engage in early exercise due to the prevailing cost-effectiveness of either retaining the contract until maturity or exiting the position by selling the option outright. To clarify, the call option’s value and premium follow suit as the stock price ascends. Traders can offload an option back to the options market if the present premium exceeds the initial premium paid during initiation. The trader’s profit would amount to the difference between these two premiums, factoring in any applicable fees or broker commissions.

However, specific situations prompt early option exercise. Deep-in-the-money call options are typically exercised early when the asset’s price significantly surpasses the option’s strike price. Similarly, puts can be deep-in-the-money when the price substantially falls below the strike price. Generally, "deep" denotes an amount exceeding $10 beyond the in-the-money threshold. For equities of lower value, "deep-in-the-money" might entail a $5 margin between the strike price and the market price.

Another instance of early execution arises before a stock goes ex-dividend—this marks the deadline for shareholders to possess the stock and receive the next scheduled dividend payment. Since option holders do not partake in dividends, many investors exercise their options before the ex-dividend date. This allows them to seize the profits from a favorable position and secure the dividend payment.

Other key points to note

  1. Dominance of American Options. Exchange-traded options linked to stocks are primarily of the American Options variety.

  2. Dividend Eligibility. Stockholders are qualified to receive dividend payments if they hold shares before the ex-dividend date. This date marks the point at which stockholders become eligible for dividends in the upcoming period. Notably, option holders do not partake in dividend payments.

  3. Timely Exercise of American Options. American options are frequently exercised prior to the ex-dividend date. This practice enables option holders to own the underlying stocks and qualify for the forthcoming dividend distribution.

  4. Optimal Profit Potential. American Options grant the holder the right to exercise the option when the security or stock promises maximum profitability for the holder.

  5. Impact of Stock Price Increase. When the stock price experiences an ascent, the value of a call option follows suit, resulting in an escalation of the associated premium.

  6. Strategic Option Selling. An option holder has the option to sell the American option back to the market. If the current premium surpasses the premium initially paid upon entering the contract, the option holder can reap benefits from the discrepancy between the premiums.


  • Where are American-style options traded?

  • What is the difference between European and American Options?

  • Is the American option more expensive than the European one?

  • How are American options priced?

  • What are the risks associated with American options? 

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