Binary Options Trading: An Introduction on How They Work

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Explore the intricacies of binary options trading: from its foundational principles to strategic insights.

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Binary option contracts offer defined risk and clear outcomes. They are considered ‘binary’ because there are only two possible outcomes at expiration: you either make a predefined profit, or you lose the money you paid to open the trade. This makes it easier for you when deciding whether to trade, as you know exactly how much you could lose if the markets move against you. And if they don’t, you know the exact size of your potential profit, making this a controlled, yet exciting way to trade. 

One of many major developments we've found lately is the power for regular traders to utilize the various tools of the experts and start making money by trading binary options which is much easier than regular forex trading.

A binary option is a financial product where the buyer receives a payout or loses their investment, based on if the option expires in the money. Binary options depend on the outcome of a “yes or no” proposition, hence the name “binary.” Binary options have an expiry date and/or time

The world’s financial markets offer a number of alternative investment opportunities for traders looking to turn a profit in a day, a week, or even in a few months. So if you are interested in binary options trading, this is the guide for you.

What is Binary Options Trading?

Binary options trading is a type of financial trading where the outcome is either a fixed monetary amount or nothing at all. Traders essentially bet on whether an asset's price will be above or below a specific point at a predetermined future time. If the trader predicts correctly, they receive a predetermined payout. If not, they lose the amount they invested.

Each binary option trade poses a simple “yes” or “no” question. For instance, “Will the price of gold be above $1,500 at 3 pm today?” If a trader believes it will be, they buy the option. If they believe it won't, they sell. If their prediction is correct at the option's expiration time, they receive a fixed payout. If they're wrong, they lose their initial investment.

Given the all-or-nothing payoff structure, binary options are sometimes referred to as “all-or-nothing options” or “fixed-return options.” It's important to approach binary options trading with caution, as it carries significant risks and can result in the complete loss of one's investment.

Assets that can be traded as binary options

Binary options can be based on a variety of underlying assets. The exact assets available can vary depending on the broker and the regulatory environment they operate within. Commonly traded binary option assets include:

  1. Stocks or Equities: Traders can bet on the future price of specific company stocks, such as Apple, Google, or Microsoft.
  2. Forex or Currency Pairs: This involves predicting the movement of one currency relative to another, like the EUR/USD, GBP/USD, or USD/JPY.
  3. Commodities: These include precious metals like gold and silver, energy sources like oil and natural gas, and agricultural products like corn and soybeans.
  4. Indices: Rather than betting on individual stocks, some traders prefer betting on the movement of entire stock market indices, such as the S&P 500, Dow Jones, NASDAQ, or FTSE 100.
  5. Cryptocurrencies: With the rising popularity of digital currencies, some binary options platforms have begun offering Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, and other cryptocurrencies as tradable assets.
  6. Economic Events: Some platforms allow traders to bet on the outcome of specific economic events, such as the US Non-Farm Payroll figures or interest rate decisions by central banks.
  7. Interest Rates: Predicting whether the interest rates will rise or fall by a certain period.
  8. ETFs (Exchange-Traded Funds): These are marketable securities that track a basket of assets.

It's important for traders to familiarize themselves with the specifics of the binary options market in their region, as regulations can significantly impact what assets brokers are permitted to offer. Also, due diligence is necessary before trading, as binary options are high-risk and speculative in nature.

What brokers allow you to trade binary options?

Several brokers offer the trading of binary options. Here are some of the top-rated and recommended brokers:

  1. Nadex: Recognized as the best overall for binary options trading in the USA.
  2. BinaryCent: Mentioned for offering the opportunity for beginners to trade with guidance.
  3. Cantor: Noted for its easy-to-use platform.
  4. CBOE and NYSE Brokers: Provide services from real brokers.
  5. CX Markets (Formerly Cantor Exchange): A top-rated broker for US traders, known for its reliable services.

Remember to always conduct your own research before selecting a broker to ensure it meets your trading needs and is regulated in your jurisdiction.

How binary options trading works

Binary options trading is a financial instrument that allows investors to speculate on the price movement of an underlying asset, such as stocks, commodities, indices, or currency pairs. Unlike traditional forms of trading, binary options offer a fixed payout or loss, depending on whether the option expires “in the money” or “out of the money.”

The core principle is straightforward: traders must predict whether the price of the chosen asset will rise or fall by a specified expiry time.

If they believe the price will rise, they purchase a “call” option, and if they think it will fall, they buy a “put” option.

If the trader's prediction is correct at the expiration time, they earn a predetermined profit, usually between 60% to 90% of the initial investment.

Conversely, if they are wrong, they lose the entire amount invested in that particular trade. Due to its all-or-nothing nature, binary options trading is often considered high-risk and can lead to significant financial losses.

It's crucial for potential traders to thoroughly understand the mechanics, potential rewards, and risks associated with binary options before engaging in this form of trading.

According to Nadex, there are three key elements that make up a binary option contract. These are:

  • The underlying market. This is the market you choose to trade – Nadex offers forex, stock indices, commodities, and events.
  • The strike price. This is the all-important price level. The strike price is central to the binary option decision-making process – to place a trade, you must decide if you think the underlying market will be above or below the strike.
  • The expiration date and time. You can trade binary option contracts lasting for up to one week, with a duration as short as five minutes.

There are four markets you can speculate on with binary option contracts:

  • Forex
  • Stock indices
  • Commodities like gold and silver
  • Events

Binary option strategy: How do you make this prediction?

Making predictions in binary options trading involves using a combination of quantitative techniques, market analysis, and strategy. Here's a breakdown of some of the most common strategies traders employ:

  1. Technical Analysis: This is a popular method among traders. It involves analyzing past market data, mainly price and volume, to forecast future price movements. This analysis can be performed on any security with trading history. Traders use various technical indicators, such as Moving Averages, Bollinger Bands, and the Relative Strength Index (RSI), to identify trends and points where the price is likely to reverse.
  2. Fundamental Analysis: This involves evaluating an asset's value by looking at external events and influences, as well as financial statements and industry trends. For binary options trading, this might involve assessing how news events (like corporate earnings releases or macroeconomic indicators) might influence the price of an asset. For instance, a strong earnings report from a company might lead to a rise in its stock's price, prompting a trader to buy a call option.
  3. Sentiment Analysis: This entails gauging the mood of market participants. If a majority of traders believe that a specific asset's price will rise, they'll buy call options, and vice versa. Sentiment can be gauged using tools like the Commitment of Traders (COT) report or from sentiment indicators available on various trading platforms.
  4. Risk Management and Money Management Strategies: Apart from predicting the market direction, successful trading involves risk and money management. This ensures that even when trades go wrong, the trader won't blow all their capital. This might involve deciding on a fixed amount or percentage of one's trading account to commit to a single trade.
  5. Martingale & Anti-Martingale Strategy: The Martingale strategy involves doubling the investment amount after every losing trade to recover losses and gain a profit from the initial trade amount. The Anti-Martingale strategy, on the other hand, involves increasing the investment amount after a winning trade and reducing it after a loss. These strategies require a good understanding of one's risk tolerance and capital availability.
  6. News Trading: Some traders focus on trading around significant news events. Economic releases and company announcements can lead to substantial price swings in both directions. By understanding the potential impact of a news event, traders can position themselves to profit from the price movement.

Remember, while these strategies can be useful, none of them can guarantee success, and they all come with their own risks. It's crucial to practice using a demo account, study the market regularly, and continuously educate oneself. Furthermore, due to the high-risk nature of binary options, it's essential to only invest money that one can afford to lose.


What are binary options?

Binary options are a type of financial product where the payout is either a fixed amount or nothing at all. They are called “binary” because there are only two possible outcomes: a fixed monetary gain or a loss. Unlike vanilla options, which can vary in payout depending on the price of the underlying asset, binary options provide a predictable reward if the option settles in your favor.

How does binary option trading work?

Binary option trading involves predicting whether the price of an underlying asset will rise or fall over a certain time frame. If a trader thinks the price will rise, they buy a call option. Conversely, if they believe the price will fall, they buy a put option. When the contract expires, if the trader's prediction is correct, they receive a fixed payout, but if they're wrong, they typically lose their entire investment.

Where can I trade binary options?

Binary options can be traded on various online trading platforms. Most brokers offer platforms compatible with desktop computers, mobile apps for Android devices, and other platforms. The most reputable platforms are regulated by bodies like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). Always ensure you're using a regulated platform to avoid potential scams.

What assets can I trade with binary options?

Binary options cover a wide range of underlying assets. These assets can include individual stocks, currency pairs like EUR/USD, commodities like gold, crude oil, natural gas, and precious metals. They also cover major economic events and even cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin. The specific assets available will depend on the trading platform you choose.

Are binary options a form of gambling?

Some critics compare binary options to online gambling due to their simplicity and all-or-nothing nature. However, experienced traders often use technical analysis tools, strategies, and knowledge to predict price movements, making it more of a skill than a simple game of chance. Still, it's crucial to approach binary options trading with caution, as one can lose their entire investment in a single trade.

How do I choose a binary options broker?

Choosing a binary options broker involves checking their regulation status, the variety of assets offered, trading platform features, and customer reviews. Regulated binary options brokers have met requirements set by regulatory agencies and are less likely to engage in fraudulent practices. A good rule of thumb is to look for brokers regulated by entities like the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) or the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

What are the risks associated with binary options trading?

The binary options market, like any form of trading, comes with risks. The most significant risk is losing your entire investment in a single trade. Some unregulated brokers may also engage in manipulative practices, misleading promotions, or outright scams. It's essential to be aware of these risks, use only regulated platforms, and never invest more than you can afford to lose.

Can I practice binary options trading without risking real money?

Yes, many binary options brokers offer demo accounts where you can practice trading without risking real money. These accounts provide a great place to understand how trading works, test strategies, and get comfortable before starting with real funds.

What's the difference between ‘cash or nothing' and ‘asset or nothing' binary options?

A ‘cash or nothing' binary option pays a fixed amount of cash if the option expires in the money. Conversely, an ‘asset or nothing' option pays the value of the underlying security. Both types of binary options can be valuable, depending on a trader's strategy and the underlying asset in question.

How do I avoid binary options scams?

Avoiding scams in the binary options industry requires vigilance. Stick to trading with regulated brokers, be wary of too-good-to-be-true promotions, and always do thorough research before investing. If an offer seems suspicious, check for red flags and consult industry experts or trustworthy forums.

Note: Trading binary options can be profitable, but it is also risky. Always seek advice from professionals and never invest more than you can afford to lose. Remember that past performance is not an indicator of future results.

The Final Word

In conclusion, binary options trading presents a unique blend of opportunities and challenges. As a financial instrument, it offers the allure of quick profits with predetermined risks, but this very feature also makes it exceptionally volatile and risky. The strategies ranging from technical to fundamental analyses offer traders a spectrum of tools to predict price movements, but no strategy guarantees unerring success.

For those interested in venturing into binary options trading, a deep understanding of the market, continuous learning, and prudent risk management are paramount. Moreover, it's essential to approach this form of trading with caution, acknowledging both its potential rewards and the inherent risks. Before diving into real trades, practicing with demo accounts and seeking education from reputable sources can be instrumental in refining one's skills.


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About the author

Brian Meiggs
Hi, I'm Brian Meiggs! A personal finance expert, entrepreneur, and the founder of My Millennial Guide. My drive is to help others unlock the wealth of freedom and pave the path to financial success. With my bachelor's degree in finance, I help millennials follow the smart money in order to increase their earning potential and start building wealth for the future. I write regularly about side hustles, investing, and general personal finance topics aimed to help anyone earn more, pay off debt, and reach financial freedom. I have been quoted in major publications including Business Insider, Yahoo Finance, NASDAQ, Discover, GoDaddy, BiggerPockets, Fox News,, Quick Sprout, Money Geek, MSN Money and many more!