Home What is Binary Options? How to Trade Binary Options in 2021
Maggie Smith

What if you could trade a stock and know exactly what you will win or lose? Binary options are a lure for new traders because they are simple to use and your potential gain or loss is known in advance.

Do you think the price of gold will be above or below X amount in 10 minutes – Yes or No?

What is Binary Options?...

If your bet is correct, you get a fixed pay out. If you are wrong, you lose the cost of the options contract. The outcomes and your risk are clearly defined.

If you bet on the horses or football games, then you are very familiar with this win or lose proposition called gambling. Binary options have been compared to bets on a roulette wheel – Do you expect the ball to land on an even or odd number? – and even Russian roulette.

If you are looking to make easy money, you are not likely to find it in binary options trading. Whether or not binary options are a form of gambling or investing depends on the learning, skill and experience you dedicate to trading them. If you toss a coin – heads the price will rise, tails the price will fall – your chances of winning are 50/50. After trading fees, you will inevitably lose money. This is gambling. Alternatively, like any good trader, you can use fundamental and technical market analysis to decide whether to buy or sell a binary option.

What Are Binary Options?

Binary options are an all-or-nothing bet on the future price of an underlying asset. The trader receives a fixed payout if the price of an underlying asset (e.g., currency pair, stock) hits a preset level at a preset expiry date. The expiry date may range from a minute to a month, but is generally intraday (minutes to a few hours). Here are two examples of fixed-return high-low binary options:

Market price – In a simple high-low binary option trade, the trader chooses whether the expiry price will be higher or lower than the market price (the strike price). The trader buys a binary option betting the gold price will rise above the current market price of $1,300 in the next five minutes.

Set price level –The trader buys a binary option betting the price of gold will reach 1,310 in two hours. If in two hours the price of gold is above the strike price, the trader receives a payout. If it is below the strike price, the trader loses the cost of the option.

An option is the right, but not the obligation, to buy (call) or sell (put) an underlying asset at a predetermined price and date.


If the expectation is the stock price will rise above the strike price, the trader takes a long position and buys a call option.


If the expectation is the stock price will fall below the strike price, the trader takes a short position and buys a put option.

Why Should I Trade Binary Options?

Binary options allow you to easily place money behind your opinion on a market? Do you expect the price of gold to rise above $1,300? Will Netflix stock rise or fall after today’s earnings announcement? Will the unemployment rate report show an increase or decrease?

Let’s take the unemployment report as an example. A falling unemployment number is a bullish signal for the US market that can strengthen the USD against the EUR.  If US unemployment falls, traders short the EUR/USD.  If unemployment rises, traders typically go long the EUR/USD.

There are many barriers to buying an option on the bet that the EUR/USD will rise based on a higher US unemployment rate.

  • Your broker may require a higher account minimum to trade options
  • The size of potential losses if the EUR/USD price falls is unknown
  • The price could rise but not enough to cover the bid-ask spread after fees
  • The orders of large traders with faster executions speeds will be filled first, which could result in price slippage
  • The use of leverage will magnify any losses
  • In the event of losses, you could receive margin calls

Th binary option, in comparison, has two possible outcomes:
🔺The price rises above the strike price – The unemployment report is negative, the USD price falls and the EUR/USD price rises. You get a payout.
🔻The price falls below the strike price – If the currency pair falls below the strike price before the expiry time, you lose the cost of the option.

How the payout is calculated can differ among binary options providers. See the binary options broker and exchange examples below for two popular payout models.

Not all binary options trading platforms are zero-sum games in which the trader has to accept a fixed payout and expiry date. The trader can choose when to exit before the options contract expiry, thereby gaining more control over profits and losses.


  • Simple binary choice – ‘Yes’ or ‘No’
  • Risk, potential loss, is predetermined by amount of trade
  • Potential reward is predetermined
  • Cannot lose more than what you have bet


  • High risk of loss of capital
  • All-or-nothing bet
  • A one pip difference from the strike price and the trade is out-of-the-money and pays out 0
  • Not legal or available to retail traders in some jurisdictions

How to Start Trading Binary Options at a Broker:

For retail traders to trade investment assets, they need to sign up with a broker who acts as an intermediary between the traders and exchanges. In the US, traders can sign up with the popular Nadex exchange and trade binary options directly with the exchange. As mentioned, the payout models vary across binary options providers. This review of the popular IQ Options broker and Nadex exchange demonstrates two  different payout methods.

How to Trade Binary Options in the US:

Why Choose Nadex? Binary Options Trading Trading Screen Basic Binary Options Trading On Nadex
Advanced Binary Options Trading On Nadex

What is Binary Options?...Fees: $1 per contract

Min Deposit: $250

Nadex is a popular binary options and spread exchange in the United States regulated by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Binary options can be traded on stock indices, forex, commodities, and economic events. Choose an expiry from 5 minutes to 2 hours (intraday), or daily or weekly periods. Nadex provides the option to close binary trades before expiry. Test drive the platform with the free demo account.

  • Low fee of $1 per contract on large choice of underlying assets
  • An exchange, not a broker, is the trade counterparty
  • Call spread and touch bracket options
  • Exit trade before expiry

The trading screen looks like a typical online trading interface. The major difference is instead of complex price charts and indicators, you are given a choice of options contracts to buy.

What is Binary Options?...

In this example, the EUR/USD currency pair is trading at 1.250. We choose to buy 5 contacts of the 15-minute contract at USD18 for a total cost of USD90. The option price of less than USD100 indicates traders see a low probability, an 18 percent chance, of the EUR/USD price rising in the next 15 minutes. Your chance of losing is about 82 percent.

What is Binary Options?...

Nadex binary options have a fixed payoff between $0 and $100, so your profit and loss potential is known in advance.

What is Binary Options?...

You have two exit options.

1. Let the contract expire. If it expires above the strike price, you gain $100 per contract. If it expires below the contract price, you get paid 0 and lose the cost of the options ($90).

Your maximum gain is USD 410 ($500 ($100 x 5 contracts) – $90).
Your maximum loss is the cost of the options USD 90.

2. Sell before the expiration at a price at or less than $100.
The price rises to $50 and then starts to fall. You decide to sell at $40 to lock in profits and avoid losses.

Your maximum gain is USD 110 ($200 ($40 x 5 contracts) – $90).

The Touch Bracket is a new instrument that caps potential profit and losses within a defined price range. Bulls would buy and win if the top bracket is hit while bears would sell and win if the bottom bracket was hit. The contract settles by price if a bracket is hit, or time upon its expiry. Any realized profit or loss will be determined by the difference between the level at which the contract was bought or sold and the expiration value of the contract.

What is Binary Options?...

How to Trade Binary Options (non-USA option)

Why Choose IQ Option?Basic Binary Options Trading With IQ Option
Advanced Binary Options Trading With IQ Option

What is Binary Options?...Fees: $0

Min Deposit: $10, Min. Trade: $1

IQ Options is a Cyprus-regulated binary options platform. Many binary options traders have started off with its intuitive, easy-to-use interface. Trade forex and cryptocurrencies, as well as CFDs on close to 200 stocks, ETFs, and indices – with 5x leverage. Take control of your binary options trades with limit, stop-loss, and trailing stop orders. Start with the basics of binary options trading. Fundamental and technical analysis training can take you to the next level. Dozens of videos are available in the education center. Over 100 technical indicators and widgets are available to deepen your trading strategies. Get accustomed to the platform using the free demo account. IQ Option is not available to retail clients in Europe, where only Professional clients can trade binary and digital options.

  • No to low fees
  • Forex, cryptocurrencies, CFDs (on stocks, indices and more), and ETFs
  • User-friendly interface

IQ Options has one of the most user-friendly trading interfaces. Market information is provided including trader sentiment, and event and economic calendars. Parameters are easy to set as follows:

  • The price direction – higher (call option) or lower (put option)
  • The strike price (at which you will exit the trade)
  • The amount you are trading
  • The expiration time of the option

The payout percentage is preset by the system based on the spread, transaction costs, time of the day, and expiration time. The maximum payout percentage is about 90% to 95%.

What is Binary Options?...

Many of the favorite tools of the advanced trader are offered by IQ Option. Set stop losses and trailing stops. Choose from over 100 technical indicators. In this example, a basic moving average indicator is applied. Set your own parameters by choosing the moving average period and type – short-term moving average (SMA), weighted moving average (WMA), exponential moving average (EMA), and so on. IQ Option provides the option to close the trade before expiry.

What is Binary Options?...

When an option settles above the strike price, it is in the money. When an option settles below the strike price, it is out of the money. In the latter case, the trader will let the option expire and lose the contract cost.

What to Look for in a Binary Options Broker?

Binary options are deceptively simple. A trading platform with education on how to use technical indicators and trading strategies can help you develop binary options trading skill. Without skill, you are rolling the dice. Other broker features to compare include:

Regulated – Many binary options brokers have been shut down for fraudulent activity. Go with a broker that is regulated and trusted in your market.

Trade exit before expiry – The ability to lock in profits or minimize losses by closing a trade before expiry can significantly improve your trading performance.

Stop-loss orders – Stop-loss and trailing stop orders minimize your losses by stopping out trades at preset price levels.

Technical indicators – Conducting fundamental and technical analysis is the difference between rolling the dice and trading based on skill. Start off with the basics like moving averages, and support and resistance lines to improve your price forecasting skills.

Demo account – Practicing how to trade these exotic options before putting real money at risk is highly advised.

Binary options are called naked options for good reason. Because the writers of these options do not own the underlying asset, they face high price risk exposure. Traders, however, do not have to be completely naked. By using risk management tools, you can gain more control over your potential gains and losses when trading binary options.


How much do I need to start trading binary options?

How much can I make as a binary options trader?

Do I need a margin account to trade binary options?

Do I need to use stop-loss orders to trade binary options?

I want to day trade binary options but the broker is not licensed in my country.

Can I trade binary options in Europe?

What is the difference between a binary options exchange (e.g., Nadex) and a broker (e.g., IQ Option)?

What is the difference between a binary option and digital option?

Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith

Maggie is an investment expert with 10 years experience in dividend stocks and income investing. She has a PhD in Financial Markets and Investment Strategies and has contributed to a number of financial portals, writing stock market analysis pieces and reports on technology stocks and IPOs.