Options Don’t Expire On The Third Friday Of Every Month (Technically)

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If you've thought all along that options expire on the third friday of every month you really need to read this. And I thought it would be fitting given that we are close to expiration right now and I've gotten a lot of emails about this particular subject. But what most people don't know is that overnight trading can dramatically effect your positions.

The Friday Deadline

Here's the skinny on options expiration. Options do expire at 4 p.m. on the third Friday of the month in the sense that they no longer trade. Here's the catch - the stocks themselves however do keep trading after hours!

So what could be an in-the-money (ITM) close at 4 p.m. on Friday can be out-of-the-money (OTM) by 5 p.m., or vice versa. Again not knowing this one minor detail can be the difference between making money and losing money.

Check out this old chart of AAPL earnings cap to get an idea of just how far a stock can move overnight.

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Exercising ITM Options

While there are a couple differences between how brokers look at ITM options these days, most ITM options will be automatically exercised based on the 4 p.m. closing price. Some may now be automatically exercised even if they are as little as a penny ITM - while other brokers have different requirements.

Regardless of wether you choose to exercise your option or not, you have to make the decision fast! Even though options technically don’t expire until noon on Saturday (again not when they are last traded in the open market), you need to make your final decision ASAP.

Most brokers require you to contact your contact them either way by 5:30 p.m. on Friday or they will usually make the decision for you.

What About Index Options?

Some index options are referred to as "cash settled" in which the options occur primarily in the underlying instrument and at expiration cash changes hands not necessarily the underlying security.

But there is a little twist with Index Options which expire on a completely different day and have a very unique overnight trading policy. I'll leave this for you all to help answer in the comments section below.

About The Author

Kirk Du Plessis

Kirk founded Option Alpha in early 2007 and currently serves as the Head Trader. 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 two daughters.