OAP 048: Options Approval Levels Tips – How to Quickly Work Your Way Up The 4 Different Levels

Options Trading
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Options approval levels are options trading restrictions placed on your brokerage account to prevent or allow you from entering different options strategies. Most new traders, and admittedly some experienced traders, often don’t know which trading level they are in or even that levels exist. Still, you should always reach out to your current broker and check with them directly to be sure.

While trading approval levels and names can vary from broker to broker, there are usually 4 main levels that you’ll encounter. In today’s episode, I’ll first help you understand why brokers have these levels and the types of options strategies you’re allowed to trade in each of the four. Plus, I'll help answer some common questions I get from members about either applying for a trading level to start with or moving to a higher approval level.

Towards the end I'll share some tips and suggestions after talking with 6 different options trading brokers about new strategies or tactics you can use if you’ve been denied after applying for a higher trading approval level. After listening to the podcast today, if you find success using what you’ve learned please post a comment below the show notes. Tried a completely different approach that got you higher trading approval? Add that as well and share it with the rest of the community.

Key Points from Today's Show Options Approval Levels:

  • Brokers are required to put in place the trading rules and levels as part of the FINRA rules, specifically Rule 2090: Know Your Customer Rule (KYC Rule) - exchangers and regulators want brokers to know their clients.
  • The first level is covered calls, the natural transition between being a stock investor and being an option trader. Covered call enhances your portfolio, and doesn't cost any additional margin and actually reduces risk.
  • Level two allows you to buy calls and puts, single leg options, and in most cases doing covered put writing - a cash secured covered put.
  • Level three gives you the ability to start trading more complex strategies including spreads such as credit spreads, iron condors, iron butterflies, and calendars in some cases.
  • The fourth level allows you the ability to trade anything that is uncovered, naked, or undefined including single leg calls, single leg puts, short strangles, short straddles, or any combination thereof.
  • Higher trading level approval requires trading knowledge and the income to support it. Informing your broker of your trading experience and having a secure financial position will make them confident enough to give you a higher trading approval level.
  • Brokers are mostly interested in covering themselves, so if you send them a signed letter that explains your trading credentials and states that you are aware of the trading risks, this releases them of any liability that they may have had.
  • If you still get denied a higher level approval because of a lack of experience, bite the bullet and start trading within your level at a very small scale to show your broker evidence of your trading activity and build experience.

Option Alpha Podcast Show Notes[FREE Download] Podcast Show Notes & Transcript PDF: No time to read the show notes right now? We've made it incredibly easy for you to save time by giving you instant access to the complete digital version of today's show. Click Here to Download Your FREE Copy ?

Free Options Trading Courses:

  • Options Basics [20 Videos]Whether you're a completely new trader or an experienced trader, you'll still need to master the basics. The goal of this section is to help lay the groundwork for your education with some simple, yet important lessons surrounding options.
  • Finding & Placing Trades [26 Videos]Successful options trading is 100% dependent on your ability to find and enter trades that give you an "edge" in the market. This module helps teach you how to properly scan for and select the best strategies to execute smarter option trades each day.
  • Pricing & Volatility [12 Videos]This module includes lessons on mastering implied volatility and premium pricing for specific strategies. We'll also look at IV relativeness and percentiles which help you determine the best strategy to use for each and every possible market setup.
  • Neutral Options Strategies [7 Videos]The beauty of options is that you can trade the market within a neutral range either up or down. You'll learn to love sideways and range bound markets because of the opportunity to build non-directional strategies that profit if the stock goes up, down or nowhere at all.
  • Bullish Options Strategies [12 Videos]Naturally everyone wants to make money when the market is heading higher. In this module, we'll show you how to create specific strategies that profit from up trending markets including low IV strategies like calendars, diagonals, covered calls and direction debit spreads.
  • Options Expiration & Assignment [11 Videos]Our goal is to make sure you understand the logistics of how each process works and the parties involved. If you don’t feel confident in the expiration processes or have questions that you just can't seem to get answered, then this section will help you.
  • Portfolio Management [16 Videos]When I say "portfolio management" some people automatically assume you need a Masters from MIT to understand the concept and strategies - that is NOT the case. And in this module, you'll see why managing your risk trading options is actually quite simple.
  • Trade Adjustments/Hedges [15 Videos]: In this popular module, we'll give you concrete examples of how you can hedge different options strategies to both reduce potential losses and give yourself an opportunity to profit if things turn around. Plus, we'll help you create an alert system to save time and make it more automatic.
  • Professional Trading [14 Videos]Honestly, this module isn't just for professional traders; it's for anyone who wants to eventually have options replace some (or all) of their monthly income. Because the reality is that mindset is everything if you truly want to earn a living trading options.

PDF Guides & Checklists:

  • The Ultimate Options Strategy Guide [40 Pages]: Our most popular PDF workbook with detailed options strategy pages categorized by market direction. Read the whole guide in less than 15 mins and have it forever to reference.
  • Earnings Trading Guide [33 Pages]: The ultimate guide to earnings trades including the top things to look for when playing these one-day volatility events, expected move calculations, best strategies to use, adjustments, etc.
  • Implied Volatility (IV) Percentile Rank [3 Pages]A cool, simple visual tool to help you understand how we should be trading based on the current IV rank of any particular stock and the best strategies for each blocked section of IV.
  • Guide to Trade Size & Allocation [8 Pages]Helping you figure out exactly how to calculate new position size as well as how much you should be allocating to your each position based on your overall portfolio balance.
  • When to Exit/Manage Trades [7 Pages]Broken down by option strategy we'll give you concrete guidelines on the best exit points and prices for each trade type in order to maximize your win rate and profits long-term.
  • 7-Step Trade Entry Checklist [10 Pages]Our top 7 things you should be double-checking before you enter your next trading. This quick checklist will help keep you out of harms way by making sure you make smarter entries.

Real-Money, LIVE Trading:

  • IWM Iron Butterfly (Closing Trade): Exiting this IWM iron butterfly options trade gave us a $1,100+ profit after pinning the stock price one day before expiration at the peak of our spread.
  • CMG Iron Condor (Opening Trade): I just recorded my live trading platform (and real money account) as I walked through the process of entering a new iron condor trade in CMG stock. Inside you'll see me analyze, price and fill the trade in real-time.
  • APC Strangle (Closing Trade): Took about $150 out of this small APC strangle trade even after the stock moved completely against our call short strikes this month. But as always, implied volatility always trumps direction and because IV went down, the value of this spread dropped more-so than the impact of the directional move higher.
  • IYR Call Credit Spread (Adjusting Trade): This adjustment is good for 2 reasons. First, it reduces the overall risk in the trade if IYR continues to move higher. Second, it still leaves room for the stock to fall back down into our new profit window.
  • XHB Straddle (Closing Trade): We were able to bank a $120 profit early in the March expiration cycle for our XHB straddle with the stock trading right in the middle of our expected range.
  • AAPL Call Calendar (Opening Trade): Look behind the scenes as I use our new watchlist software to quickly filter and find this AAPL call calendar spread trade during overall low implied volatility in the market.
  • COF Strangle (Adjusting Trade): Here I recorded my live trading screen (and real money account) showing you the entire thought process we used to make an adjustment to my current short strangle in COF to reduce risk.
  • GDX Strangle (Opening Trade): With gold's high IV we are getting into a new strangle with a 70% chance of success and a decent credit for selling option premium.
  • IBB Iron Condor (Closing Trade): Today we're exiting an iron condor we traded in IBB for a $142 profit. Inside you'll see me analyze the exit price and fill the trade in real-time.

Thank You for Listening!

I'm humbled that you took the time out of your day to listen to our show and I never take that for granted. If you have any tips, suggestions or comments about this episode or topics you'd like to hear me cover, just add your thoughts below in the comment section.

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About The Author

Kirk Du Plessis

Kirk founded Option Alpha in early 2007 and currently serves as the Head Trader. In 2018, Option Alpha hit the Inc. 500 list at #215 as one of the fastest growing private companies in the US. Formerly an Investment Banker in the Mergers and Acquisitions Group for Deutsche Bank in New York and REIT Analyst for BB&T Capital Markets in Washington D.C., he's a Full-time Options Trader and Real Estate Investor. He's been interviewed on dozens of investing websites/podcasts and he's been seen in Barron’s Magazine, SmartMoney, and various other financial publications. Kirk currently lives in Pennsylvania (USA) with his beautiful wife and three children.