Difference between Binary options and Forex

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Binary Options vs. Forex Trading: Understanding the Difference

Forex trading and binary trading are quite different and it is important to understand these differences in order to become

The article was written by Connor Harrison from Binary Brokers (BBZ). BBZ makes an effort to educate their traders so that they can understand recommendations regarding binary options, international legislation, risk management and other issues related to trading.

Binary options are option contracts with fixed risks and fixed rewards. In binary options trading, the trader must decide whether an underlying asset, such as a stock, a commodity, or a currency, will go up or down during a fixed period of time. Traders are shown up front the value of their earnings if their predictions are right.

Roulette

Binary trading works in much the same way as a roulette: if your prediction is wrong, you lose all the money you risked, but if your prediction is right, you receive your money back plus a return. A common set-up is for the trader to make 80% of what they bet on any trade that they get right. For instance, if a trader puts in $10 dollars betting on the value of the USD/EURO going up, and the guess is correct, he would receive $8 dollars plus his initial investment. If the value of the same currency drops, however, the trader loses 100% of the money that they put in.

Connor Harrison, BBZ

To make money in binary options in the long run, you must win the majority of the bets. Since forex trading allows users to set their own profit targets vs. stop loss orders, traders can still make a profit even if they do not win the majority of their trades.

There are of course some similarities between binary trading and forex trading. Both financial trading markets are tradable online, and they both allow users to start trading with small amounts of capital.

In both types of markets, users are speculating on which direction an asset moves in. In the case of guessing correctly, both trading options provide strong profit potential.

However, there are some differences between binary options and forex. In a binary market, traders only guess whether an asset, such as a foreign currency, will go up or down in value over a fixed period of time. In this sense, there is no variability in the risk or in the profit potential. The binary market is named after the binary system, in which the only two input options are 1 or 0. Similarly, in binary trading, the only two options are up and down.

Higher variability, more risk

Forex markets offer higher variability and more risk for traders. In forex markets, sometimes known as FX markets or currency markets, traders must decide not only in which direction as asset will go, but must also predict how high or low that asset goes. Thus, the ultimate risk and profit is unknown.

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In forex, there are no limits to how much money a trader can make or lose, unless they use certain tools to control trading. One tool is a stop loss, which prevents traders from losing more than a certain amount. In other words, once the trader has lost a certain amount, the trade automatically closes. Similarly, the potential reward may also be fixed beforehand. The trader can decide that he wants the trade to close once it has reached a certain profit value.

The maximum loss in forex would be all the money on your trading account. In forex, both losses and profits can be managed with limit/stop orders.

Timelines

Binary trades operate on specific timelines. The trader has no control over when a trade begins or ends once a trade has started. Before a binary options trade begins, users must select when the order expires. Each option has a start time and an end time.

At the expiry time, the trade automatically closes. Some brokers allow you to close early but you will exit your option at a percentage of the expected return. Not all brokers offer this option.

Similarly, some brokers allow traders to delay the expiry time to the next expiry time. This is called “rollover” and is only possible if traders increase their investment by a certain percentage.

In forex trading, users can take trades lasting from one second to many months, since they can open and close the trade whenever they feel like it. This flexibility has both advantages and disadvantages.

Margins

Forex also has a tool called margins. Each broker determines the maximum margin. Margins allow traders to increase their investment capital so that they can make a larger profit if the trade is a winning one. Margin is not a tool available for binary options.

There are five types of binary options you can trade. These are high/low, 60 seconds options, touch/no touch options, boundary options, and option builder. There are many different types of orders in forex. Buy/sell are the most important type. However, there are more advanced types such as limit, stop, OCTO (one cancels the other), trailing stop, and hedge orders, among others.

Forex trading and binary trading are quite different and it is important to understand these differences in order to become a successful trader.

What is the difference between forex trading and binary options trading?

New traders typically face a choice of whether they will trade forex or binary options. They may also consider stocks or futures, but since these endeavours are more capital intensive, forex and binary options are the most accessible to the average person. Although you can use the same charts for forex and binary trading, there are several differences between the two and these differences will likely appeal to different traders. Before trading either market with real money it is important to have a plan for trading, a reliable trading method and sound position management.

Before looking at how forex trading and binary options trading differ, let’s first address some general ways in which they similar.

  • Both are tradable online and typically anytime the underlying asset market is open. For the forex market and binary forex options (usually) this means trading takes place around the clock during the week.
  • You can begin trading either market with a small amount of capital, usually around $100, sometimes less. Since you don’t want to risk a lot on each individual trade (see: Determining Binary Options Position Size) likely you will want to start out with more trading capital than $100 though.
  • Both allow you make or lose money based on which way the asset moves–currency or otherwise.
  • Both are tradable on short-term time frames, although with forex trading you can also take long-term positions.

Differences

There are also major differences between forex trading and binary options trading.

  • One major difference is that with binary options the risk and profit potential are both fixed at the outset of the trade. For example if a binary option pays out 80% to winning traders, then you know that if you place $10 on a trade, you will either lose your $10 or make $8 (and of course you keep your initial $10 as well).
    • Forex trading is more variable. This can be good or bad depending on how the trader trades. A stop loss can be used to control risk, but market conditions may prevent the order from being executed at the expected price resulting in a larger than expected loss. If a stop loss is not used, then the risk of the trade is unknown. A profit target can also be used to take profits at a certain price or percentage level, but there is no guarantee that price will be hit.
    • Binary options trading is simpler than forex trading because there is no variability, you know your risk and profit potential and when the option expires you either lose or gain the pre- determined amount. With forex trading you don’t know your ultimate risk and profit until you close the trade. But this can also be an advantage depending on your trading level as the fixed risk and profit of binary options offers little flexibility in customizing risk relative to reward.
  • The risk and reward profiles for forex trading and binary options are also drastically different. With the forex market you can customize your potential reward relatively to risk. For example, you can place a trade and place a stop loss order which exposes you to a $100 loss, and at the same time place a profit target at a price which will give you a $300 profit. The trade stays open until one of the orders is hit, resulting in a $100 loss or $300 profit (or close to it).
    • With binary options trading on the other hand your risk is almost always more than your reward. Binary options typically pay out 60% to 80%, but if you lose usually 100% of the money you placed on the trade is gone.
    • With binary options you will need a greater than 50% winning percentage on trades to breakeven (about 55% or higher depending on the payouts) and/or make a profit. With forex trading you can actually lose more trades than you win, but since you can customize your reward relative to risk you could end up still making a profit.
    • Certain traders will like the flexibility of forex trading, while others will appreciate the simple transparency of binary option’s fixed risk and payouts.
  • Magnitude of price moves is another difference. When the underlying asset is barely moving a binary option will still pay out 60 to 80%, but forex traders are likely to be sidelined because there isn’t enough volatility to make a decent profit.
    • When trading forex the magnitude of price moves matter. You not only need to pick which direction you think the market will move but also need to assess how far it may go–both for and against you.
    • With binary options the magnitude of the price move doesn’t matter. If you buy a EUR/USD call option thinking the price will rise in the next 15 minutes, it doesn’t matter if the price goes up 1 pip or 100, you still get the full payout and are exposed to a known risk (the amount you placed on the trade) if it drops 1 or 150 pips instead.
  • Another difference is the time frames available for trading. With forex trading you can take trades that last from 1 second to many months, and every conceivable time frame in between because you open and close the trade when you feel like it. With binary options you must trade on the time frame of the options provided to you.
    • Knowing definitively when your trade begins and ends will appeal to many traders, in which case they will likely be drawn to binaries. Others will prefer the flexibility of forex trading on any time frame they want, opening and closing positions at a time and price they determine.

Final Word

This is not a definitive list of the similarities and differences between forex and binary options trading, but will likely help you on your way to making a choice.

Both the forex market and binary options provide profit potential. Binary options are simpler and you always know your risk, profit potential and how long the trade will last. Forex trading is much more variable and there are more things to consider, such as when you will get in, when you will get out and how you will manage the trade in the mean time. This variability of forex and the simplicity of binaries both have advantages and disadvantages. Based on the differences assess which you prefer, or try a demo account with a forex broker and binary options broker to see which you like better and ultimately in which market you perform the best.

Trading Forex with Binary Options

Binary options are an alternative way to play the foreign currency (forex) market for traders. Although they are a relatively expensive way to trade forex compared with the leveraged spot forex trading offered by a growing number of brokers, the fact that the maximum potential loss is capped and known in advance is a major advantage of binary options.

Defining Binary Options

Binary options have two outcomes: They settle either at a pre-determined value (generally $100) or at $0. This settlement value depends on whether the price of the asset underlying the binary option is trading above or below the strike price by expiration.

Binary options can be used to speculate on the outcomes of various situations: Will the S&P 500 rise above a certain level by tomorrow or next week? Will this week’s jobless claims be higher than the market expects? Or will the euro or yen decline against the U.S. dollar today?

For example, say gold is trading at $1,195 per troy ounce currently and you are confident that it will be trading above $1,200 later that day. Assume you can buy a binary option on gold trading at or above $1,200 by that day’s close, and this option is trading at $57 (bid)/$60 (offer). You buy the option at $60. If gold closes at or above $1,200, as you had expected, your payout will be $100, which means that your gross gain (before commissions) is $40 or 66.7%. On the other hand, if gold closes below $1,200, you would lose your $60 investment, for a 100% loss.

Binary Option Buyers and Sellers

For the buyer of a binary option, the cost is the price at which the option is trading. For the seller of a binary option, the cost is the difference between 100 and the option price and 100.

From the buyer’s perspective, the price of a binary option can be regarded as the probability that the trade will be successful. Therefore, the higher the binary option price, the greater the perceived probability of the asset price rising above the strike. From the seller’s perspective, the probability is 100 minus the option price.

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All binary option contracts are fully collateralized, which means that both sides of a specific contract – the buyer and seller – have to put up capital for their side of the trade. So if a contract is trading at 35, the buyer pays $35, and the seller pays $65 ($100 – $35). This is the maximum risk of the buyer and seller and equals $100 in all cases.

Thus the risk-reward profile for the buyer and seller in this instance can be stated as follows:

Buyer

  • Maximum risk = $35
  • Maximum reward = $65 ($100 – $35)

Seller

  • Maximum risk = $65
  • Maximum reward = $35 ($100 – $65)

Forex Markets

Binary options in forex are available from exchanges such as Nadex, which offers them on the most popular pairs such as USD-CAD, EUR-USD, and USD-JPY, as well as on a number of other widely-traded currency pairs. These options are offered with expirations ranging from intraday to daily and weekly. The tick size on spot forex binaries from Nadex is 1, and the tick value is $1.

The intraday forex binary options offered by Nadex expire hourly, while the daily ones expire at certain set times throughout the day. The weekly binary options expire at 3 P.M. on Friday.

For forex contracts, Nadex calculates the expiration value by taking the midpoint prices of the last 25 trades in the forex market, eliminates the highest five and lowest five prices, and then takes the arithmetic average of the remaining 15 prices.

Examples of Binary Options in Forex

Let’s use the EUR-USD currency pair to demonstrate how binary options can be used to trade forex. We use a weekly option that will expire at 3 P.M. on Friday, or four days from now (or Monday). Assume the current exchange rate is EUR 1 = USD 1.2440.

Consider the following scenarios:

1. You believe the euro is unlikely to weaken by Friday and should stay above 1.2425. The binary option EUR/USD>1.2425 is quoted at 49.00/55.00. You buy 10 contracts for a total of $550 (excluding commissions). At 3 P.M. on Friday, the euro is trading at USD 1.2450. Your binary option settles at 100, giving you a payout of $1,000. Your gross gain (before taking commissions into account) is $450, or approximately 82%. However, if the euro had closed below 1.2425, you would lose your entire $550 investment, for a 100% loss.

2. You are bearish on the euro and believe it could decline by Friday, say to USD 1.2375. The binary option EUR/USD>1.2375 is quoted at 60.00/66.00. Since you are bearish on the euro, you would sell this option. Your initial cost to sell each binary option contract is, therefore, $40 ($100 – $60). Assume you sell 10 contracts, and receive a total of $400. At 3 P.M. on Friday, let’s say the euro is trading at 1.2400.

Since the euro closed above the strike price of $1.2375 by expiration, you would lose the full $400 or 100% of your investment. What if the euro had closed below 1.2375, as you had expected? In that case, the contract would settle at $100, and you would receive a total of $1,000 for your 10 contracts, for a gain of $600 or 150%.

Additional Basic Strategies

You do not have to wait until contract expiration to realize a gain on your binary option contract. For instance, let’s say by Thursday the euro is trading in the spot market at 1.2455, but you are concerned about the possibility of a decline in the currency if U.S. economic data to be released on Friday are very positive. In this case, your binary option contract (EUR/USD>1.2425), which was quoted at 49.00/55.00 at the time of your purchase, is now at 75/80. Therefore, you could sell the 10 option contracts you had purchased at $55 each, for $75, and book a total profit of $200 (or 36%).

You can also put on a combination trade for lower risk/lower reward. Let’s consider the USD/JPY binary option to illustrate. Assume your view is that volatility in the yen – trading at 118.50 to the dollar – could increase significantly, and it could trade above 119.75 or decline below 117.25 by Friday. You, therefore, buy 10 binary option contracts (USD/JPY>119.75, trading at 29.50/35.50) and also sell 10 binary option contracts (USD/JPY>117.25, trading at 66.50/72.00). Therefore, you pay $35.50 to buy the USD/JPY>119.75 contracts, and $33.50 (i.e., $100 – $66.50) to sell the USD/JPY>117.25 contracts. Your total cost would be $690 ($355 + $335).

Three possible scenarios arise by option expiration at 3 P.M. on Friday:

  1. The yen is trading above 119.75. In this case, the USD/JPY>119.75 contract has a payout of $100, while the USD/JPY>117.25 contract expires worthless. Your total payout is $1,000, for a gain of $310 (or about 45%).
  2. The yen is trading below 117.25.In this case, the USD/JPY>117.25 contract has a payout of $100, while the USD/JPY>119.75 contract expires worthless. Your total payout is $1,000, for a gain of $310 (or about 45%).
  3. The yen is trading between 117.25 and 119.75: In this case, both contracts expire worthlessly and you lose the full $690 investment.

The Bottom Line

Binary options are a useful tool as part of a comprehensive forex trading strategy but have a couple of drawbacks in that the upside is limited even if the asset price spikes up, and a binary option is a derivative product with a finite lifespan (time to expiration).

However, binary options have a number of advantages that make them especially useful in the volatile world of forex. For starters, the risk is limited (even if the asset prices spikes up), the collateral required is quite low, and they can be used even in flat markets that are not volatile. These advantages make forex binary options worthy of consideration for the experienced currency trader.

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