option symbol example

How To Read An Option Symbol — Learn By Example

The best way to understand how to read a U.S. option symbol is with an real life example. Stock Ticker + YYMMDD + C/P + 8 Digit Strike Price.

February 3, 2023
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    U.S. option symbols include most pertinent information about the contract inside the symbol itself, making it easy to read and understand what the symbol means. The best way to understand is with an example.

    Deciphering The Option Symbol

    Option Symbol Example: AAPL251219C00150000

    Place in the Option Symbol Value Explanation
    AAPL251219C00150000 AAPL The underlying stock, ETF, or index symbol
    AAPL251219C00150000 25 The two-digit expiration year
    AAPL251219C00150000 12 The two-digit expiration month
    AAPL251219C00150000 19 The two-digit expiration day
    AAPL251219C00150000 C Option type, call or put
    AAPL251219C00150000 00 Right-aligned padding with 0s to extend the strike price to exactly 8 digits
    AAPL251219C00150000 150 The strike price in dollars
    AAPL251219C00150000 00 The strike price in cents
    AAPL251219C00150000 0 A final trailing 0 as padding, added after the cents

    Each Option Symbol Component Explained

    Underlying Symbol – AAPL251219C00150000

    This is the stock, ETF, or index symbol and it indicates what is the underlying ticker for this option. The underlying ticker’s price is what will determine whether the option will expire in the money or worthless.

    Expiration Date In YYMMDD Format – AAPL251219C00150000

    This date tells you the expiration of the option. For 99% of U.S.-traded options they will expire after market close on the date of expiration. For some index options, such as SPX options (but not SPXW options), they will expire at market open. The option’s closing price on this day will determine the option’s final value and whether it will be exercised or expire worthless.

    Option Type, Call or Put – AAPL251219C00150000

    In the middle of the option, after the date but before the strike price, there will be a letter C or letter P to indicate whether the option is a call or a put. Remember, calls are options that increase in value when the stock goes up and allow you to buy stock at the strike price and puts are options that increase in value when the stock goes down, allowing you to sell the stock at the strike price.

    Right-Aligned 8 Digit Strike Price, Front-Padded With 0s And With 3 Digits For The Cents – AAPL251219C00150000

    The number after the C or P letter is an 8 digit number that represents the strike price. This is where almost all beginner option traders get confused. The number has 3 different parts and is right aligned. That means when you’re writing this number, it helps to start from left and then work right. Its counterintuitive, but that’s how option symbols work.

    Three Digits For The Strike Price’s Cents – AAPL251219C00150000

    In a ticker like AAPL that’s worth $150 at the time of writing, there won’t be contracts that have cents. However, in lower-priced stocks, say INTC, which is trading around $30, you’ll have options with a strike price of $32.50 for example. Take a look at this Intel $32.50 call for Jan. 17, 2025: INTC250117C00032500. The last 3 digits are 500. Even though the U.S. dollar has just two digits for cents, options symbols use an extra trailing 0 after the cents. This is is the #1 error that trips up most traders who are not used to writing or reading option symbols. In fact, if you arrived at this blog post after being referred by our customer support, chances are you are here because of this issue.

    Up to 5 Digits For the Strike Price in Dollars – AAPL251219C00150000

    After the three digits for the cents, add the strike price of the option in dollars. In the case of this $150 AAPL call, that’s going to be 150. This can be as many or as few digits as needed. For sub-$10 strikes it’ll be a single digit. For $10-99 two digits, and so on up to a maximum of 5 digits.

    Front-Padded 0s To Generate an 8 Digit Number – AAPL251219C00150000

    Finally, the number needs to be front-padded with 0s until an 8-digit number has been generated. This is why we say the option strike price is right-aligned, since extra zeros are added to the front of the number in order to generate an 8-digit number. When the strike price of the option in dollars is 3 digits (in this example, $150), then there will be two leading 00s. When the strike price is 4 digits (say $4000 in the case of SPX), then there will be a single leading 0. On a sub-$10 strike price, there will be four leading 0000s.

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