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The importance of managing and monitoring option strategies around expiration

fidelity option assignment notification

Getting started

Before we dive into the idea of managing options expiration, let's quickly review:

  • Call option – the holder of the option has the right to buy stock at the strike price of the option, while the writer of the option has the obligation to sell stock at the strike price.
  • Put option – the holder of the option has the right to sell stock at the strike price, while the writer of the option has the obligation to buy stock at the strike price.
  • A customer who has sold an option to open is considered to have a short position, while a customer who has bought an option to open is considered to have a long position.

In addition, options on underlying securities that are more than $0.01 in the money are automatically exercised. Most of this is covered in basic options education, but what does this mean to you and how will it affect your trading at your brokerage firm?

Most brokerage firms will only allow you to place option trades that are within your option trading tier, which is determined by your option application that confirms your level of experience, investment objective, financial stability, and obligations. Additionally, many brokerage firms may prevent you from executing an option trade that would exceed the account's buying power. It is important to note that these checks are at the time of order entry for the option, and not based on the resulting buying or selling of the underlying stock. If you have ever received an error message when trading options, it is usually the result of the option tier or buying power being exceeded by the desired trade. See how to Evaluate your options account to find your non-margin buying power and approved option trading tier.

Learning by example

Follow the example below to learn more about John, a hypothetical customer, and the actions he took both before and after placing an options trade.

What's the outcome?

In this example the 55 strike calls that John had sold expired worthless, and the 50 strike calls that John owned were in the money. As a result, the calls were exercised and John bought 5,000 shares of TQE, even though he did not have sufficient buying power to cover the transaction.

At this point there are 2 choices: He can make a deposit or sell the shares to cover the cost of the purchase of TQE. He doesn't have the ability to make a deposit to cover the shares, so John is left to cover the outstanding balance by selling shares of TQE. The sale that John is forced to transact to pay for the purchase of TQE shares could potentially lead to a trading violation. To add insult to injury, shares of TQE were down after expiration, which reduced his overall profit on the trade.

Looking back it could have been different, if John had closed the option prior to expiration. He would've had the peace of mind knowing that he locked in his profit, his positions would not be liquidated by the brokerage firm because he was overleveraged, and his account would not be restricted from trading.

Mitigating risk

In some situations, a brokerage firm will take proactive steps to mitigate risk. These steps may include liquidating positions or blocking an exercise entirely by entering Do Not Exercise instructions on the position. It is important to note that Do Not Exercise instructions can only be entered on long options! If short options are in the money, you can't block assignment due to the obligation and terms of the option contract. If the brokerage firm blocks exercise, the intrinsic value of the option is forfeited, resulting in a total loss on the value of the option if the contract is not closed by the customer prior to expiration. To help customers from having these actions taken in their account, some brokerage firms will send out alerts by phone, email, or text to warn customers that they need to take action prior to expiration. Every brokerage firm is different and it is ultimately the customer's responsibility to know if/how their brokerage firm handles options expiration risk and if they need to take action on or before expiration.

It is a common misconception that when equity option contracts have intrinsic value, this amount is multiplied by the number of contracts, then added or subtracted from the account. Equity options are not and cannot be cash settled. The gain or loss for options that are not closed on or before expiration is realized through the resulting equity trades of exercise or assignment.

Take advantage of the right tools along the way

Fidelity offers a variety of tools and resources to help you along the way. Use the 5 steps to develop an options trading plan as a guide. Here are a few highlights:

  • Refine your strategy using the Probability Calculator
  • Model option strategies with the Profit & Loss Calculator
  • Set price alerts

The Option Summary in Fidelity's Active Trader Pro ® is a great tool to help manage and modify your option positions. One view in particular, Options by Expiration, allows you to easily see the days to expiration on each contract and answer questions such as: Do I have contracts expiring this week that may require action? Do I have in-the-money contracts with a high probability of exercise or assignment?

Active Trader Pro: Options by expiration

Trading options can be quite complicated and every brokerage firm approaches option expiration a little differently. It is extremely important to educate yourself about how your firm's process will complement your trading strategy. Don't forget that your brokerage firm is there to help and provide suggestions! While option trading can be complex, it can also be very rewarding if you know what to expect throughout the life of an option strategy to option expiration.

Place an options trade

Enter a single- or multi-leg options trade.

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Evaluate your options account

Free riding violation

A free riding violation occurs when a customer purchases securities and then pays for the cost of those securities by selling the very same securities.

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Option Assignment Process

Options trading 101 - the ultimate beginners guide to options.

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fidelity option assignment notification

One of the biggest fears that new options traders have is that they may get assigned. The option assignment process means that the option writer is obligated to deliver on the terms specified in a contract.

For example, if a put option is assigned, the options writer would need to buy the underlying security at the strike price dictated in the contract.

Likewise for a call option, the options write would need to sell the underlying security at the strike price dictated in the contract.

As an options trader you’re usually seeking to make a profit from directional bets or to hedge your portfolio.

You’re rarely, if ever, looking to actually buy or sell the underlying security so being assigned can sound like a scary prospect.

This article will explore the option assignment process so you can understand how it works and how you can prevent yourself getting stuck with buying or selling an underlying security.

When Assignment Occurs

Assignment occurs when an option holder exercises an option. Exercising an option simply means that the option holder executes the terms in the options contract.

So for example if you are holding a call option, you have the right, but not the obligation to buy the underlying security at the agreed strike price.

When you exercise the option, the option holder will need to sell the underlying security at the agreed strike price and for the agreed quantity.

If you’re dealing with European style options, you will know when expiration is possible because they can only be exercised on the expiration date itself.

option assignment process

For American style options, which is what most people trade, options can be exercised at any time before the expiration date.

This means that if you are an options writer of American style options, you could theoretically be asked at any time to comply with the terms of the contract.

Unfortunately, there is no knowing when an assignment will take place.

However, generally options are not exercised prior to expiration as it is usually much more profitable to sell the option instead.

It’s worth noting that this will only happen to you if you’re an options seller. Option buyers can never be assigned.

There are two key steps to assignment and to make it fair, the process of selecting who is assigned is random.

In the first step, the Options Clearing Corporation (OCC) will issue an exercise notice to a randomly selected Clearing Member who maintains an account with the OCC.

In the second step, the Clearing Member then assigns the exercise notice to an individual account.

When You Are Most At Risk

There are several situations that can dramatically increase the risk that you will be assigned:

Situation 1: Your option is In The Money (ITM)

When an option is ITM, an option holder would stand to profit if they exercised the option.

The deeper the option is ITM, the greater the profit for the option holder and therefore the higher risk they may exercise the option and you will be assigned.

Situation 2: The option has an upcoming dividend

An ITM call buyer can profit from exercising an option before its ex-dividend date if the extrinsic value of the call is less than the amount of the dividend.

Situation 3: There is no extrinsic value left

If there is no extrinsic value left, an option buyer could be tempted to exercise the option.

If there is extrinsic value, an option buyer would typically make a bigger profit by selling the option and buying/selling shares of the underlying asset.

How You Can Avoid The Risk Of Being Assigned

There are several steps you can take to avoid, or at the very least minimise, your risk of being assigned.

The first step to consider is avoiding selling any options that have an upcoming dividend.

Before selling any option, first check that the underlying security doesn’t have an upcoming dividend and if it does, consider waiting until after the dividend has occurred (i.e. the stock has gone ex-dividend).

If you do end up selling an option with an upcoming dividend, then the second step to protecting yourself is to close your position early as your risk begins to increase.

For example, if you are short an option with an extrinsic value less than the dividend amount and the ex-dividend of the underlying security is not too far away, close your position.

Otherwise you risk being assigned and being forced to pay the dividend as well!

To completely avoid early assignment risk, you could always sell only European style options which are cash settled at expiration. You can read more that here and here .

The final way to manage your risk is to close positions well before expiration date approaches.

As the time left to expiration decreases, so too does the extrinsic value. For option buyers, it means they could stand to benefit and so there is a risk they may exercise the option.

While this article deals with the process and risks behind being assigned, there will be times when this isn’t an issue for you.

Provided you have enough capital to meet the assignment, you may be fine with being assigned.

If this is the case, you would simply have a new stock position added which you could hold onto or immediately liquidate.

In the event that you don’t have enough capital, your broker will issue you with a margin call and the position should be automatically closed.

As the process of assignment can differ between brokers, its best you contact your broker to check the specific process they use when issuing assignments to individual accounts.

In general, provided you take a few key steps to mitigate your risks, particularly around dividend issuing securities, the chances of assignment are very low.

Trade safe!

Disclaimer: The information above is for  educational purposes only and should not be treated as investment advice . The strategy presented would not be suitable for investors who are not familiar with exchange traded options. Any readers interested in this strategy should do their own research and seek advice from a licensed financial adviser.

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Closed my Oct BB (a few moments ago) for 34% profit…that is the best of the 3 BBs I traded since Gav taught us the strategy…so, the next coffee or beer on me, Gav 🙂

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Understanding assignment risk in Level 3 and 4 options strategies

E*TRADE from Morgan Stanley

With all options strategies that contain a short option position, an investor or trader needs to keep in mind the consequences of having that option assigned , either at expiration or early (i.e., prior to expiration). Remember that, in principle, with American-style options a short position can be assigned to you at any time. On this page, we’ll run through the results and possible responses for various scenarios where a trader may be left with a short position following an assignment.

Before we look at specifics, here’s an important note about risk related to out-of-the-money options: Normally, you would not receive an assignment on an option that expires out of the money. However, even if a short position appears to be out of the money, it might still be assigned to you if the stock were to move against you just prior to expiration or in extended aftermarket or weekend trading hours. The only way to eliminate this risk is to buy-to-close the short option.

  • Short (naked) calls

Credit call spreads

Credit put spreads, debit call spreads, debit put spreads.

  • When all legs are in-the-money or all are out-of-the-money at expiration

Another important note : In any case where you close out an options position, the standard contract fee (commission) will be charged unless the trade qualifies for the E*TRADE Dime Buyback Program . There is no contract fee or commission when an option is assigned to you.

Short (naked) call

If you experience an early assignment.

An early assignment is most likely to happen if the call option is deep in the money and the stock’s ex-dividend date is close to the option expiration date.

If your account does not hold the shares needed to cover the obligation, an early assignment would create a short stock position in your account. This may incur borrowing fees and make you responsible for any dividend payments.

Also note that if you hold a short call on a stock that has a dividend payment coming in the near future, you may be responsible for paying the dividend even if you close the position before it expires.

An early assignment generally happens when the put option is deep in the money and the underlying stock does not have an ex-dividend date between the current time and the expiration of the option.

Short call + long call

(The same principles apply to both two-leg and four-leg strategies)

This would leave your account short the shares you’ve been assigned, but the risk of the position would not change . The long call still functions to cover the short share position. Typically, you would buy shares to cover the short and simultaneously sell the long leg of the spread.

Pay attention to short in-the-money call legs on the day prior to the stock’s ex-dividend date, because an assignment that evening would put you in a short stock position where you are responsible for paying the dividend. If there’s a risk of early assignment, consider closing the spread.

Short put + long put

Early assignment would leave your account long the shares you’ve been assigned. If your account does not have enough buying power to purchase the shares when they are assigned, this may create a Fed call in your account.

However, the long put still functions to cover the position because it gives you the right to sell shares at the long put strike price. Typically, you would sell the shares in the market and close out the long put simultaneously.

Here's a call example

  • Let’s say that you’re short a 100 call and long a 110 call on XYZ stock; both legs are in-the-money.
  • You receive an assignment notification on your short 100 call, meaning you sell 100 shares of XYZ stock at 100. Now, you have $10,000 in short stock proceeds, your account is short 100 shares of stock, and you still hold the long 110 call.
  • Exercise your long 110 call, which would cover the short stock position in your account.
  • Or, buy 100 shares of XYZ stock (to cover your short stock position) and sell to close the long 110 call.

Here's a put example:

  • Let’s say that you’re short a 105 put and long a 95 put on XYZ stock; the short leg is in-the-money.
  • You receive an assignment notification on your short 105 put, meaning you buy 100 shares of XYZ stock at 105. Now, your account has been debited $10,500 for the stock purchase, you hold 100 shares of stock, and you still hold the long 95 put.
  • The debit in your account may be subject to margin charges or even a Fed call, but your risk profile has not changed.
  • You can sell to close 100 shares of stock and sell to close the long 95 put.

Long call + short call

Debit spreads have the same early assignment risk as credit spreads only if the short leg is in-the-money.

An early assignment would leave your account short the shares you’ve been assigned, but the risk of the position would not change . The long call still functions to cover the short share position. Typically, you would buy shares to cover the short share position and simultaneously sell the remaining long leg of the spread.

Long put + short put

An early assignment would leave your account long the shares you’ve been assigned. If your account does not have enough buying power to purchase the shares when they are assigned, this may create a Fed call in your account.

All spreads that have a short leg

(when all legs are in-the-money or all are out-of-the-money)

Pay attention to short in-the-money call legs on the day prior to the stock’s ex-dividend date because an assignment that evening would put you in a short stock position where you are responsible for paying the dividend. If there’s a risk of early assignment, consider closing the spread.

However, the long put still functions to cover the long stock position because it gives you the right to sell shares at the long put strike price. Typically, you would sell the shares in the market and close out the long put simultaneously. 

What to read next...

How to buy call options, how to buy put options, potentially protect a stock position against a market drop, looking to expand your financial knowledge.

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Options Assignment

What is early options assignment what happens when options get assigned, options assignment - introduction, options assignment prior to expiration, options automatic exercise and assignment during expiration, can i avoid getting automatically exercised or assigned during expiration, what happens when long call options get automatically exercised, what happens when short call options get automatically exercised, what happens when long put options get automatically exercised, what happens when short put options get automatically exercised, generalisations about short options assignments before expiration, options assignment threshold during expiration, options assignment questions:.

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COMMENTS

  1. How to exercise, roll, and assign options

    5 min Exercising your options The key things to know about managing options, including exercise, assignment, and roll. Fidelity Active Investor Managing an options trade is quite different from that of a stock trade. Essentially, there are 4 things you can do if you own options: hold them, exercise them, roll the contract, or let them expire.

  2. PDF Monitoring your option trades: Exercise and assignment

    exercise notice to their brokerage firm proactively informing Fidelity that you would like to exercise your option contract, that's one way that you can exercise the contract that you own. Or, we have what's known as auto-ex, let me explain what this is. Once an option has reached its expiration date, the industry has to have some kind of

  3. How long to see assigned options? : r/fidelityinvestments

    The duration of this process varies depending on the contract type, but assignment notices appear no later than 8:30 a.m. ET the business day following exercise or expiration. For example, the holder of a short option which expires on a Friday will be notified of assignment by 8:30 a.m. ET on Monday.

  4. Dividends and Options Assignment Risk

    If you are assigned, you must deliver your shares of the underlying security, as well as the dividend income, to the owner of the call. Let's examine a hypothetical example to illustrate how this works. Bob owns 500 shares of ABC stock, which pays a quarterly $0.50 dividend.

  5. Help

    Setting a Price Alert You may set Price Alerts on stocks, ETFs, options, and mutual funds. Select Set Alert from the Alerts menu. Enter a symbol, and choose the Price Alert type. Next, specify the parameters associated with your Price Alert type and click Set Alert.

  6. Fidelity options assignment : r/Fidelity

    68. r/fidelityinvestments. Join. • 8 days ago. We have another update to share with you based on feedback you've given us on Reddit! We're adding additional frequencies to automatic investments and recurring transfers into Fidelity. You can now choose between weekly, biweekly, or monthly. 242. 133.

  7. Trading Options: Understanding Assignment

    An investor who is assigned on a short option position is required to meet the terms of the written option contract upon receiving notification of the assignment. In the case of a short equity call, the seller of the option must deliver stock at the strike price and in return receives cash.

  8. PDF Questions? Go to Fidelity.com/options or call 800-343-3548. Options

    For matters concerning your account, including questions, changes, and notifications of errors, reach us: By Phone: 800-343-3548 In Writing: Fidelity Investments PO Box 770001 Cincinnati, OH 45277-0045 Who's Who in This Agreement

  9. PDF Questions? Options Options Transaction Policies

    Options Agreement This document describes the features, policies, costs, and risks associated with options trading. Please review this document and keep it for your records. Do not return it to Fidelity. How to Contact Us: For matters concerning your account, including questions, changes, and notifications of errors, reach us: By Phone:

  10. Options assignment : r/fidelityinvestments

    You'll receive a message in your Communication Center on Fidelity.com when you are assigned an options contract. Additionally, you can establish or edit alerts for options assignment to receive these notifications by text or email. While logged in, follow these steps: Under "News & Research," select "Alerts".

  11. Managing and Monitoring Options Expirations

    The gain or loss for options that are not closed on or before expiration is realized through the resulting equity trades of exercise or assignment. Take advantage of the right tools along the way Fidelity offers a variety of tools and resources to help you along the way. Use the 5 steps to develop an options trading plan as a guide.

  12. PUT option assignment out of the money expiry? : r ...

    Got a message about options getting assigned as noted below. I have put options that expire Friday that are clearly out of the money and worthless, current price is 0.01. Fidelity wouldn't assign a put position and force sale of shares, on an out of the money put? Would they?

  13. Option Assignment Process: Everything You Need to Know

    The option assignment process means that the option writer is obligated to deliver on the terms specified in a contract. For example, if a put option is assigned, the options writer would need to buy the underlying security at the strike price dictated in the contract.

  14. Option Assignment : r/fidelityinvestments

    1 comment Best Add a Comment FidelityKelli Community Care Representative • 2 min. ago Hey there, u/ChristianInvestor1. I am happy to answer this question for you! Assignment notices appear no later than 8:30 a.m., ET, the business day following exercise or expiration.

  15. Fidelity: Sell specific lots for sold calls assigned? : r/options

    Fidelity: Sell specific lots for sold calls assigned? Any fidelity options traders here? When you sell calls and they get assigned (yes I understand it should be rare that they get assigned), is there a way for me to specify the lot/shares to sell from?

  16. Understanding options assignment risk

    Understanding assignment risk in Level 3 and 4 options strategies. E*TRADE from Morgan Stanley. 10/20/20. With all options strategies that contain a short option position, an investor or trader needs to keep in mind the consequences of having that option assigned, either at expiration or early (i.e., prior to expiration).

  17. Ready for Options Trading? Make Sure You Understand Assignment First

    An option assignment represents the seller's obligation to fulfill the terms of the contract by either selling or buying the underlying security at the exercise price. This obligation is...

  18. Option Assignment Question : r/fidelityinvestments

    You will receive a message on the Fidelity communication center when you are assigned an options contract. Additionally, you can update your other notification channels preferences to receive a text message or email when a transaction takes place. Follow these steps on Fidelity.com (login required):

  19. Option Chain: Fidelity Investments

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  20. What Is Option Assignment & How Does It Work?

    The option premium you collect is $10. After three weeks, the stock has jumped to $105, and the short calls are worth $6. You are alerted that you now face a call option assignment. While a small percentage of options contracts are exercised, you are among the few who are chosen to be assigned.

  21. Options Assignment

    That option disappears along with your short stocks. Your stocks get closed off at $25 (even though the market price is $20) and you make $30 - $25 = $5 x 100 = $500 on your stocks and $1.00 x 100 = $100 on your short put options. So you lock in a total profit of $600 when that options assignment happens.

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    thereto under the terms of the Policy had this assignment not been executed; 2. That, upon payment of the indebtedness secured hereby, written notice of the release of this assignment will be given to the Insurer. VI. In the event of any conflict between the provisions of this assignment and the provisions of the note or other evidence of

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