Just like stocks, every option has a unique ticker symbol. In order to fully understand the option ticker, we must understand the different parts that make it up. There are 4 separate parts to an option ticker. These include the underlying stock ticker, the expiration date, the type of option (call or put), and the strike price.
1 - The underlying stock ticker. The first part of the option ticker represents the stock for which the option is for. This is the most straightforward part. For example, if an option is for “MSFT”, the option ticker would begin with “MSFT”.
2 - The expiration date. The expiration date is the date at which the option expires and is no longer valid. The expiration date is represented in the following format: Expiration Year (YY) + month(MM) + day(DD). So for example, an option for MSFT that expires on October 8, 2021, would begin with “MSFT211008”.
3 - The option type. There are 2 kinds of option types, Calls and Puts.
Call options give the buyer the right, but not the obligation to purchase the underlying stock at a specific strike price before a specific expiration date.
Put options give the buyer the right, but not the obligation to sell the underlying stock at a specific strike price before the specified expiration date.
The type of the option is critical for investors to understand. In an option ticker, it is represented right after the expiration date. If the contract is a call option, it is represented by a “C”. If it is a put option, it is represented by a “P”. So for example, a MSFT call option that expires on October 8th, 2021, would begin with “MSFT211008C”. A put for the same stock/expiration date would begin with “MSFT211008P”.
4 - The strike price. The strike price is the last part of the option ticker. Also known as the exercise price, the strike price is the price at which you can buy or sell an option before the expiration date. The last digits in the option ticker represent the strike price. For example, MSFT211008C00290500, would represent a MSFT call option that expires on October 8th, 2021, with a strike price of $290.50. This value includes three decimal places. A simple way of calculating this value is to divide the strike price part of the option ticker by 1000.
Example Options Tickers
To help illustrate how to read an options ticker, take a look at the following examples.
A January 21, 2022 Call Option for Uber with a $50 Strike Price
UBER220121C00050000 = UBER + 220121 + C + 00050000
Underlying Stock - UBER
Expiration Date - January 21st, 2022 or ‘220121’ (YYMMDD)
Option Type - Call or ‘C’
Strike Price - 00050000 (50000/1000) or $50
A November 19, 2021 Put Option for Ford with a $14 Strike Price
F211119P00014000 = F + 211119 + P + 00014000
Underlying Stock - F (Ford)
Expiration Date - November 19th, 2021 or ‘211119’ (YYMMDD)
Option Type - Put or ‘P’
Strike Price - 00014000 (14000/1000) or $14