Know the Key Differences Between Futures and Options Trading

In the fast-paced world of finance, two terms frequently tossed around are “futures” and “options.” If you’re an Indian investor looking to navigate these complex waters, you’ve come to the right place. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll dive deep into futures and options trading, providing you with a clear understanding of the key differences, their uses, and their suitability for Indian markets.

What are Futures and Options

Futures and options contracts are both financial instruments traded on established exchanges like the BSE (Bombay Stock Exchange) and NSE (National Stock Exchange). They are used by investors to hedge risk or speculate on price movements in various underlying assets, including commodities, currencies, bonds, and stocks.

Futures Contracts in the Indian Market

Futures contracts are defined as agreements to buy/ sell an underlying asset at a predetermined price on a future date. Unlike options, futures contracts are binding for both parties involved. This means that when you enter into a futures contract, you are obligated to fulfil it on the specified date, whether it results in a profit or a loss.

  • Futures contracts are binding and require the completion of the transaction on the agreed-upon date.
  • They entail unlimited profit potential but also unlimited loss.
  • No upfront cost is associated with entering a futures contract.

Options Contracts

Options, on the other hand, provide the holder with the right, however not the obligation, to buy-call option or sell-put option, an underlying asset at a predetermined price before a specific expiration date. This flexibility makes options versatile tools for hedging or speculating.

  • Options offer limited risk since the holder can choose not to exercise the contract if it becomes unattractive.
  • They can be executed at any point of time before the expiration date.
  • Options require the payment of a premium, which is at risk if the contract is not exercised.

Exploring the Difference Between Futures and Options

Contract TypeObliges buyer and seller to trade the underlying asset at a specified price and date in the future.Gives the buyer the right, but not the obligation, to trade the underlying asset at a specified price and date in the future.
Risk and FlexibilityHigher risk, lower flexibilityLower risk, higher flexibility
Transaction CostsLower transaction costsHigher transaction costs
LiquidityHigher liquidityLower liquidity
Primary UsesMainly used for hedging and speculation purposesMainly used for hedging, speculation, and income generation purposes
Standardization and TradingStandardized and traded on exchangesCan be standardized and traded on exchanges, or customized and traded over-the-counter
Settlement MethodSettled by physical delivery or cash settlementSettled by physical delivery, cash settlement, or exercise

Comparing Risk and Profit Potential

Futures contracts involve higher risks due to their binding nature. The potential for unlimited profit is counterbalanced by the possibility of unlimited losses. In contrast, options limit risk to the premium paid, reducing the chance of incurring substantial losses.

Contract Execution and Advance Payment

Futures contracts are executed on the specified date, with the buyer purchasing the underlying asset. There’s no upfront cost when entering into a futures contract. Options contracts, however, require a premium payment and can be executed by the buyer at any time before the expiry date.

Liquidity and Value

Futures contracts are known for their high liquidity, making them suitable for day trading in Indian markets. They closely track the actual commodity’s performance, offering a near-real trading experience. Options’ values are influenced by the movement of futures contracts and come with a premium, making them less liquid.

Capital Considerations

Futures options are susceptible to time decay, with their value diminishing as they approach expiration. This can result in substantial capital erosion. Therefore, careful consideration is crucial when trading options. Futures, on the other hand, require a relatively small upfront margin, making them a cost-effective choice.


In the realm of Indian markets, understanding the difference between futures and options is vital for informed decision-making. While futures offer more liquidity and unlimited profit potential, options provide risk mitigation with limited losses. The choice between future and options ultimately depends on your trading goals, risk tolerance, and market conditions.

So, whether you’re an Indian investor looking to hedge against market volatility or speculate on price movements, futures and options can be powerful tools in your financial arsenal. Make sure to carefully assess your strategy and risk appetite before delving into the exciting world of derivatives trading.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is cheaper, options or futures?

Futures contracts generally require a smaller upfront margin compared to the premium payment for options. However, the actual cost-effectiveness depends on your trading strategy and market conditions.

Which offers more leverage, options or futures?

Futures contracts allow for more leverage compared to options. The liquidity and lower spreads in futures markets contribute to this advantage.

Are futures or options more profitable?

Both futures and options have unique features. The choice between them depends on your trading strategy and risk tolerance. Sometimes, buying options may be preferable, but it requires a well-developed F&O strategy.

Are futures or options safer for individual investors?

Futures and options both carry risks. Options contracts can lose value quickly due to time decay, potentially resulting in a total loss if not exercised. Individual investors, however, face greater risk when investing in futures, given their binding nature.


Disclaimer: Investments in the securities market are subject to market risks; read all the related documents carefully before investing.