Best Binary Broker!
Perfect for beginners!
Free Demo Account! Free Trading Education!
Only for experienced traders!
Bull Call Spread
What Is a Bull Call Spread?
A bull call spread is an options trading strategy designed to benefit from a stock’s limited increase in price. The strategy uses two call options to create a range consisting of a lower strike price and an upper strike price. The bullish call spread helps to limit losses of owning stock, but it also caps the gains. Commodities, bonds, stocks, currencies, and other assets form the underlying holdings for call options.
How To Manage A Bull Call Spread
The Basics of a Call Option
Call options can be used by investors to benefit from upward moves in a stock’s price. If exercised before the expiration date, these trading options allow the investor to buy shares at a stated price—the strike price. The option does not require the holder to purchase the shares if they choose not to. Traders who believe a particular stock is favorable for an upward price movement will use call options.
The bullish investor would pay an upfront fee—the premium—for the call option. Premiums base their price on the spread between the stock’s current market price and the strike price. If the option’s strike price is near the stock’s current market price, the premium will likely be expensive. The strike price is the price at which the option gets converted to the stock at expiry.
Should the underlying asset fall to less than the strike price, the holder will not buy the stock but will lose the value of the premium at expiration. If the share price moves above the strike price the holder may decide to purchase shares at that price but are under no obligation to do so. Again, in this scenario, the holder would be out the price of the premium.
An expensive premium might make a call option not worth buying since the stock’s price would have to move significantly higher to offset the premium paid. Called the break-even point (BEP), this is the price equal to the strike price plus the premium fee.
The broker will charge a fee for placing an options trade and this expense factors into the overall cost of the trade. Also, options contracts are priced by lots of 100 shares. So, buying one contract equates to 100 shares of the underlying asset.
- A bull call spread is an options strategy used when a trader is betting that a stock will have a limited increase in its price.
- The strategy uses two call options to create a range consisting of a lower strike price and an upper strike price.
- The bullish call spread can limit the losses of owning stock, but it also caps the gains.
Building a Bull Call Spread
The bull call spread reduces the cost of the call option, but it comes with a trade-off. The gains in the stock’s price are also capped, creating a limited range where the investor can make a profit. Traders will use the bull call spread if they believe an asset will moderately rise in value. Most often, during times of high volatility, they will use this strategy.
The bull call spread consists of steps involving two call options.
- Choose the asset you believe will appreciate over a set period of days, weeks, or months.
- Buy a call option for a strike price above the current market with a specific expiration date and pay the premium. Another name for this option is a long call.
- Simultaneously, sell a call option at a higher strike price that has the same expiration date as the first call option. Another name for this option is a short call.
By selling a call option, the investor receives a premium, which partially offsets the price they paid for the first call. In practice, investor debt is the net difference between the two call options, which is the cost of the strategy.
Realizing Profits From Bull Call Spreads
The losses and gains from the bull call spread are limited due to the lower and upper strike prices. If at expiry, the stock price declines below the lower strike price—the first, purchased call option—the investor does not exercise the option. The option strategy expires worthlessly, and the investor loses the net premium paid at the onset. If they exercise the option, they would have to pay more—the selected strike price—for an asset that is currently trading for less.
If at expiry, the stock price has risen and is trading above the upper strike price—the second, sold call option—the investor exercises their first option with the lower strike price. Now, they may purchase the shares for less than the current market value.
Best Binary Broker!
Perfect for beginners!
Free Demo Account! Free Trading Education!
Only for experienced traders!
However, the second, sold call option is still active. The options marketplace will automatically exercise or assign this call option. The investor will sell the shares bought with the first, lower strike option for the higher, second strike price. As a result, the gains earned from buying with the first call option are capped at the strike price of the sold option. The profit is the difference between the lower strike price and upper strike price minus, of course, the net cost or premium paid at the onset.
With a bull call spread, the losses are limited reducing the risk involved since the investor can only lose the net cost to create the spread. However, the downside to the strategy is that the gains are limited as well.
Investors can realize limited gains from an upward move in a stock’s price
A bull call spread is cheaper than buying an individual call option by itself
The bullish call spread limits the maximum loss of owning a stock to the net cost of the strategy
The investor forfeits any gains in the stock’s price above the strike of the sold call option
Gains are limited given the net cost of the premiums for the two call options
A Real World Example of a Bull Call Spread
An options trader buys 1 Citigroup Inc. (C) June 21 call at the $50 strike price and pays $2 per contract when Citigroup is trading at $49 per share.
At the same time, the trader sells 1 Citi June 21 call at the $60 strike price and receives $1 per contract. Because the trader paid $2 and received $1, the trader’s net cost to create the spread is $1.00 per contract or $100. ($2 long call premium minus $1 short call profit = $1 multiplied by 100 contract size = $100 net cost plus, your broker’s commission fee)
If the stock falls below $50, both options expire worthlessly, and the trader loses the premium paid of $100 or the net cost of $1 per contract.
Should the stock increase to $61, the value of the $50 call would rise to $10, and the value of the $60 call would remain at $1. However, any further gains in the $50 call are forfeited, and the trader’s profit on the two call options would be $9 ($10 gain – $1 net cost). The total profit would be $900 (or $9 x 100 shares).
To put it another way, if the stock fell to $30, the maximum loss would be only $1.00, but if the stock soared to $100, the maximum gain would be $9 for the strategy.
Bull call spread
- Options strategies
- Options strategies
- Options strategies
To profit from a gradual price rise in the underlying stock.
Example of bull call spread
|Buy 1 XYZ 100 call at||(3.30)|
|Sell 1 XYZ 105 call at||1.50|
|Net cost =||(1.80)|
A bull call spread consists of one long call with a lower strike price and one short call with a higher strike price. Both calls have the same underlying stock and the same expiration date. A bull call spread is established for a net debit (or net cost) and profits as the underlying stock rises in price. Profit is limited if the stock price rises above the strike price of the short call, and potential loss is limited if the stock price falls below the strike price of the long call (lower strike).
Potential profit is limited to the difference between the strike prices minus the net cost of the spread including commissions. In the example above, the difference between the strike prices is 5.00 (105.00 – 100.00 = 5.00), and the net cost of the spread is 1.80 (3.30 – 1.50 = 1.80). The maximum profit, therefore, is 3.20 (5.00 – 1.80 = 3.20) per share less commissions. This maximum profit is realized if the stock price is at or above the strike price of the short call at expiration. Short calls are generally assigned at expiration when the stock price is above the strike price. However, there is a possibility of early assignment. See below.
The maximum risk is equal to the cost of the spread including commissions. A loss of this amount is realized if the position is held to expiration and both calls expire worthless. Both calls will expire worthless if the stock price at expiration is below the strike price of the long call (lower strike).
Breakeven stock price at expiration
Strike price of long call (lower strike) plus net premium paid
In this example: 100.00 + 1.80 = 101.80
Profit/Loss diagram and table: bull call spread
|Long 1 100 call at||(3.30)|
|Short 1 105 call at||1.50|
|Net cost =||(1.80)|
|Stock Price at Expiration||Long 100 Call Profit/(Loss) at Expiration||Short 105 Call Profit/(Loss) at Expiration||Bull Call Spread Profit/(Loss) at Expiration|
Appropriate market forecast
A bull call spread performs best when the price of the underlying stock rises above the strike price of the short call at expiration. Therefore, the ideal forecast is “modestly bullish.”
Bull call spreads have limited profit potential, but they cost less than buying only the lower strike call. Since most stock price changes are “small,” bull call spreads, in theory, have a greater chance of making a larger percentage profit than buying only the lower strike call. In practice, however, choosing a bull call spread instead of buying only the lower strike call is a subjective decision. Bull call spreads benefit from two factors, a rising stock price and time decay of the short option. A bull call spread is the strategy of choice when the forecast is for a gradual price rise to the strike price of the short call.
Impact of stock price change
A bull call spread rises in price as the stock price rises and declines as the stock price falls. This means that the position has a “net positive delta.” Delta estimates how much an option price will change as the stock price changes, and the change in option price is generally less than dollar-for-dollar with the change in stock price. Also, because a bull call spread consists of one long call and one short call, the net delta changes very little as the stock price changes and time to expiration is unchanged. In the language of options, this is a “near-zero gamma.” Gamma estimates how much the delta of a position changes as the stock price changes.
Impact of change in volatility
Volatility is a measure of how much a stock price fluctuates in percentage terms, and volatility is a factor in option prices. As volatility rises, option prices tend to rise if other factors such as stock price and time to expiration remain constant. Since a bull call spread consists of one long call and one short call, the price of a bull call spread changes very little when volatility changes. In the language of options, this is a “near-zero vega.” Vega estimates how much an option price changes as the level of volatility changes and other factors are unchanged.
Impact of time
The time value portion of an option’s total price decreases as expiration approaches. This is known as time erosion, or time decay. Since a bull call spread consists of one long call and one short call, the sensitivity to time erosion depends on the relationship of the stock price to the strike prices of the spread. If the stock price is “close to” or below the strike price of the long call (lower strike price), then the price of the bull call spread decreases with passing of time (and loses money). This happens because the long call is closest to the money and decreases in value faster than the short call. However, if the stock price is “close to” or above the strike price of the short call (higher strike price), then the price of the bull call spread increases with passing time (and makes money). This happens because the short call is now closer to the money and decreases in value faster than the long call. If the stock price is half-way between the strike prices, then time erosion has little effect on the price of a bull call spread, because both the long call and the short call decay at approximately the same rate.
Risk of early assignment
Stock options in the United States can be exercised on any business day, and the holder of a short stock option position has no control over when they will be required to fulfill the obligation. Therefore, the risk of early assignment is a real risk that must be considered when entering into positions involving short options.
While the long call in a bull call spread has no risk of early assignment, the short call does have such risk. Early assignment of stock options is generally related to dividends, and short calls that are assigned early are generally assigned on the day before the ex-dividend date. In-the-money calls whose time value is less than the dividend have a high likelihood of being assigned. Therefore, if the stock price is above the strike price of the short call in a bull call spread (the higher strike price), an assessment must be made if early assignment is likely. If assignment is deemed likely and if a short stock position is not wanted, then appropriate action must be taken. Before assignment occurs, the risk of assignment can be eliminated in two ways. First, the entire spread can be closed by selling the long call to close and buying the short call to close. Alternatively, the short call can be purchased to close and the long call can be kept open.
If early assignment of a short call does occur, stock is sold. If no stock is owned to deliver, then a short stock position is created. If a short stock position is not wanted, it can be closed by either buying stock in the marketplace or by exercising the long call. Note, however, that whichever method is chosen, the date of the stock purchase will be one day later than the date of the stock sale. This difference will result in additional fees, including interest charges and commissions. Assignment of a short call might also trigger a margin call if there is not sufficient account equity to support the short stock position.
Potential position created at expiration
There are three possible outcomes at expiration. The stock price can be at or below the lower strike price, above the lower strike price but not above the higher strike price or above the higher strike price. If the stock price is at or below the lower strike price, then both calls in a bull call spread expire worthless and no stock position is created. If the stock price is above the lower strike price but not above the higher strike price, then the long call is exercised and a long stock position is created. If the stock price is above the higher strike price, then the long call is exercised and the short call is assigned. The result is that stock is purchased at the lower strike price and sold at the higher strike price and no stock position is created.
The “bull call spread” strategy has other names. It is also known as a “long call spread” and as a “debit call spread.” The term “bull” refers to the fact that the strategy profits with bullish, or rising, stock prices. The term “long” refers to the fact that this strategy is “long the market,” which is another way of saying that it profits from rising prices. Finally, the term “debit” refers to the fact that the strategy is created for a net cost, or net debit.
Bull Call Spread
The bull call spread option trading strategy is employed when the options trader thinks that the price of the underlying asset will go up moderately in the near term.
Bull call spreads can be implemented by buying an at-the-money call option while simultaneously writing a higher striking out-of-the-money call option of the same underlying security and the same expiration month.
|Bull Call Spread Construction|
|Buy 1 ITM Call
Sell 1 OTM Call
By shorting the out-of-the-money call, the options trader reduces the cost of establishing the bullish position but forgoes the chance of making a large profit in the event that the underlying asset price skyrockets. The bull call spread option strategy is also known as the bull call debit spread as a debit is taken upon entering the trade.
Limited Upside profits
Maximum gain is reached for the bull call spread options strategy when the stock price move above the higher strike price of the two calls and it is equal to the difference between the strike price of the two call options minus the initial debit taken to enter the position.
The formula for calculating maximum profit is given below:
- Max Profit = Strike Price of Short Call – Strike Price of Long Call – Net Premium Paid – Commissions Paid
- Max Profit Achieved When Price of Underlying >= Strike Price of Short Call
Limited Downside risk
The bull call spread strategy will result in a loss if the stock price declines at expiration. Maximum loss cannot be more than the initial debit taken to enter the spread position.
The formula for calculating maximum loss is given below:
- Max Loss = Net Premium Paid + Commissions Paid
- Max Loss Occurs When Price of Underlying
The underlier price at which break-even is achieved for the bull call spread position can be calculated using the following formula.
- Breakeven Point = Strike Price of Long Call + Net Premium Paid
Bull Call Spread Example
An options trader believes that XYZ stock trading at $42 is going to rally soon and enters a bull call spread by buying a JUL 40 call for $300 and writing a JUL 45 call for $100. The net investment required to put on the spread is a debit of $200.
The stock price of XYZ begins to rise and closes at $46 on expiration date. Both options expire in-the-money with the JUL 40 call having an intrinsic value of $600 and the JUL 45 call having an intrinsic value of $100. This means that the spread is now worth $500 at expiration. Since the trader had a debit of $200 when he bought the spread, his net profit is $300.
If the price of XYZ had declined to $38 instead, both options expire worthless. The trader will lose his entire investment of $200, which is also his maximum possible loss.
Note: While we have covered the use of this strategy with reference to stock options, the bull call spread is equally applicable using ETF options, index options as well as options on futures.
For ease of understanding, the calculations depicted in the above examples did not take into account commission charges as they are relatively small amounts (typically around $10 to $20) and varies across option brokerages.
However, for active traders, commissions can eat up a sizable portion of their profits in the long run. If you trade options actively, it is wise to look for a low commissions broker. Traders who trade large number of contracts in each trade should check out OptionsHouse.com as they offer a low fee of only $0.15 per contract (+$4.95 per trade).
The following strategies are similar to the bull call spread in that they are also bullish strategies that have limited profit potential and limited risk.
Bull Call Spread
What is a Bull Call Spread?
A bull call spread, which is an options strategy, is utilized by an investor when he believes a stock will exhibit a moderate increase in price. A bull spread involves purchasing an in-the-money (ITM) call option and selling an out-of-the-money (OTM) call option with a higher strike price Strike Price The strike price is the price at which the holder of the option can exercise the option to buy or sell an underlying security, depending on whether they hold a call option or put option. An option is a contract with the right to exercise the contract at a specific price, which is known as the strike price. but with the same underlying asset and expiration date. A bull call spread should only be used when the market is exhibiting an upward trend.
Formulas for Bull Call Spread
To determine the maximum profit, maximum loss, and break-even point Break-even Point (BEP) Break-even point (BEP) is a term in accounting that refers to the situation where a company’s revenues and expenses were equal within a specific accounting period. It means that there were no net profits or no net losses for the company – it “broke even”. BEP may also refer to the revenues that are needed to be reached in order to compensate for the expenses incurred for a bull call spread, refer to the following formulas:
Understanding a Bull Call Spread
Consider the following example:
An investor utilizes a bull call spread by purchasing a call option Call Option A call option, commonly referred to as a “call,” is a form of a derivatives contract that gives the call option buyer the right, but not the obligation, to buy a stock or other financial instrument at a specific price – the strike price of the option – within a specified time frame. for a premium of $10. The call option comes with a strike price of $50 and expires in July 2020. At the same time, the investor sells a call option for a premium of $3. The call option comes with a strike price of $70 and expires in July 2020. The underlying asset is the same and is currently trading at $50. Summarizing the information above:
In writing the two options, the investor witnessed a cash outflow of $10 from purchasing a call option and a cash inflow of $3 from selling a call option. Netting the amounts together, the investor sees an initial cash outflow of $7 from the two call options.
Now, assume that it is July 2020. The table below illustrates theoretical stock prices at the expiration date.
At a price of $60 or above, the investor’s gain is capped at $3 because both the long call option and short call option is in-the-money. For example, at the stock price of $65:
- The investor would gain through its long call position by being able to purchase at a strike price of $50 and sell at the market price of $65; and
- The investor would lose through its short call position by having to purchase at the market price of $65 and selling it to the option holder at $60.
Factoring in net commissions Commission Commission refers to the compensation paid to an employee after completing a task, which is, often, selling a certain number of products or services , the investor would be left with a net gain of $3.
At a price of $50 or below, the investor’s loss is capped at -$7, because both the long call option and short call option are out-of-the-money. For example, at the stock price of $45:
- The investor would not gain from its long call position; and
- The investor would not lose from its short call position.
Factoring in net commissions, the investor would be left with a net loss of $7.
Therefore, in a bull call spread, the investor is:
- Limited to the maximum loss equal to net commissions; and
- Limited to the maximum gain equal to the difference in strike prices between the short and long call and net commissions.
Applying the formulas for a bull call spread:
- Maximum profit = $70 – $50 – $7 = $13
- Maximum loss = $7
- Break-even point = $50 + $7 = $57
The values correspond to the table above.
The comprehensive example above can be visually represented as follows:
- The blue line represents the pay-off; and
- The dotted yellow lines represent a long call option and a short call option.
Note that the blue line is simply a combination of the two dotted yellow lines.
The payout table below corresponds to the visual graph above.
Example of a Bull Call Spread
Jorge is looking to utilize a bull call spread on ABC Company. ABC Company is currently trading at a price of $150. He purchases an in-the-money call option for a premium of $10. The strike price for the option is $145 and expires in January 2020. Additionally, Jorge sells an out-of-the-money call option for a premium of $2. The strike price for the option is $180 and expires in January 2020.
What are the maximum payout, maximum loss, and break-even point of the bull call spread above?
The net commission is $8 ($2 OTM Call – $10 ITM Call).
Applying the formulas for a bull call spread, Jorge determines the:
- Maximum profit = $180 – $145 – $8 = $27
- Maximum loss = $8
- Break-even point = $145 + $8 = $153
To confirm, Jorge creates a payout table:
Benefits and Drawbacks of Using a Bull Call Spread
The primary benefit of using a bull call spread is that it costs lower than buying a call option. In the example above, if Jorge only used a call option, he would need to pay a $10 premium. Through using a bull call spread, he only needs to pay a net of $8. In addition to being cheaper, the losses are lower as well. If the stock dropped to $0, Jorge would only realize a loss of $8 versus $10 (if he were to just use a long call option).
However, one significant drawback from using a bull call spread is that potential gains are limited. For example, in the example above, the maximum gain Jorge can realize is only $27 due to the short call option position. Even if the stock price were to skyrocket to $500, Jorge would only be able to realize a gain of $27.
CFI is the official provider of the global Financial Modeling & Valuation Analyst (FMVA)™ FMVA® Certification Join 350,600+ students who work for companies like Amazon, J.P. Morgan, and Ferrari certification program, designed to help anyone become a world-class financial analyst. To keep advancing your career, the additional resources below will be useful:
- Box Spread Box Spread A box spread is an options trading strategy that combines a bear put and a bull call spread. In order for a box spread to be effective:The expiration dates
- Options: Calls and Puts Options: Calls and Puts An option is a form of derivative contract which gives the holder the right, but not the obligation, to buy or sell an asset by a certain date (expiration date) at a specified price (strike price). There are two types of options: calls and puts. US options can be exercised at any time
- Spread Trading Spread Trading Spread trading – also known as relative value trading – is a method of trading that involves an investor simultaneously buying one security and selling a
- Investing: A Beginner’s Guide Investing: A Beginner’s Guide CFI’s Investing for Beginners guide will teach you the basics of investing and how to get started. Learn about different strategies and techniques for trading, and about the different financial markets that you can invest in.
Long Call Spread
AKA Bull Call Spread; Vertical Spread
A long call spread gives you the right to buy stock at strike price A and obligates you to sell the stock at strike price B if assigned.
This strategy is an alternative to buying a long call. Selling a cheaper call with higher-strike B helps to offset the cost of the call you buy at strike A. That ultimately limits your risk. The bad news is, to get the reduction in risk, you’re going to have to sacrifice some potential profit.
Options Guy’s Tips
Because you’re both buying and selling a call, the potential effect of a decrease in implied volatility will be somewhat neutralized.
The maximum value of a long call spread is usually achieved when it’s close to expiration. If you choose to close your position prior to expiration, you’ll want as little time value as possible remaining on the call you sold. You may wish to consider buying a shorter-term long call spread, e.g. 30-45 days from expiration.
- Buy a call, strike price A
- Sell a call, strike price B
- Generally, the stock will be at or above strike A and below strike B
NOTE: Both options have the same expiration month.
Who Should Run It
Veterans and higher
When to Run It
You’re bullish, but you have an upside target.
Break-even at Expiration
Strike A plus net debit paid.
The Sweet Spot
You want the stock to be at or above strike B at expiration, but not so far that you’re disappointed you didn’t simply buy a call on the underlying stock. But look on the bright side if that does happen — you played it smart and made a profit, and that’s always a good thing.
Maximum Potential Profit
Potential profit is limited to the difference between strike A and strike B minus the net debit paid.
Maximum Potential Loss
Risk is limited to the net debit paid.
Ally Invest Margin Requirement
After the trade is paid for, no additional margin is required.
As Time Goes By
For this strategy, the net effect of time decay is somewhat neutral. It’s eroding the value of the option you purchased (bad) and the option you sold (good).
After the strategy is established, the effect of implied volatility depends on where the stock is relative to your strike prices.
If your forecast was correct and the stock price is approaching or above strike B, you want implied volatility to decrease. That’s because it will decrease the value of the near-the-money option you sold faster than the in-the-money option you bought, thereby increasing the overall value of the spread.
If your forecast was incorrect and the stock price is approaching or below strike A, you want implied volatility to increase for two reasons. First, it will increase the value of the option you bought faster than the out-of-the-money option you sold, thereby increasing the overall value of the spread. Second, it reflects an increased probability of a price swing (which will hopefully be to the upside).
Check your strategy with Ally Invest tools
- Use the Profit + Loss Calculator to establish break-even points, evaluate how your strategy might change as expiration approaches, and analyze the Option Greeks.
- Use the Technical Analysis Tool to look for bullish indicators.
Don’t have an Ally Invest account? Open one today!
Learn trading tips & strategies
from Ally Invest’s experts
A FEW THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
Ally Financial Inc. (NYSE: ALLY) is a leading digital financial services company. Ally Bank, the company’s direct banking subsidiary, offers an array of deposit and mortgage products and services. Ally Bank is a Member FDIC and Equal Housing Lender, NMLS ID 181005. Mortgage credit and collateral are subject to approval and additional terms and conditions apply. Programs, rates and terms and conditions are subject to change at any time without notice.
Securities products and services are offered through Ally Invest Securities LLC, member FINRA and SIPC. View Security Disclosures
Advisory products and services are offered through Ally Invest Advisors, Inc. an SEC registered investment advisor. View all Advisory disclosures
Foreign exchange (Forex) products and services are offered to self-directed investors through Ally Invest Forex LLC. NFA Member (ID #0408077), who acts as an introducing broker to GAIN Capital Group, LLC (“GAIN Capital”), a registered FCM/RFED and NFA Member (ID #0339826). Forex accounts are held and maintained at GAIN Capital. Forex accounts are NOT PROTECTED by the SIPC. View all Forex disclosures
Forex, options and other leveraged products involve significant risk of loss and may not be suitable for all investors. Products that are traded on margin carry a risk that you may lose more than your initial deposit
Products offered by Ally Invest Advisors, Ally Invest Securities, and Ally Invest Forex are NOT FDIC INSURED, NOT BANK GUARANTEED, and MAY LOSE VALUE.
App Store is a service mark of Apple Inc. Google Play is a trademark of Google Inc. Amazon Appstore is a trademark of Amazon.com, Inc., or its affiliates. Windows Store is a trademark of the Microsoft group of companies.
Zelle and the Zelle related marks are wholly owned by Early Warning Services, LLC and are used herein under license.
Best Binary Broker!
Perfect for beginners!
Free Demo Account! Free Trading Education!
Only for experienced traders!