• Vanguard vs Empower Retirement
  • Robinhood puts trading
  • Stash options trading
  • Robinhood multi leg options
  • Vanguard vs Schwab

Top Brokers For

Low Cost Brokers For

Brokerage Reviews


Disclaimer: ACM MEDIA LLC provides reviews of services based on our personal opinions. We may be compensated by the businesses we review. ACM MEDIA LLC publishes content for educational purposes only, does not offer personalized financial advice, and does not recommend the purchase or sale of any investment. Copyright 2009-2023 ACM MEDIA LLC. All rights are reserved.

Join Early Retirement Today


For Industry Professionals

Registered representatives can fulfill Continuing Education requirements, view their industry CRD record and perform other compliance tasks.

For Member Firms

Firm compliance professionals can access filings and requests, run reports and submit support tickets.

For Case Participants

Arbitration and mediation case participants and FINRA neutrals can view case information and submit documents through this Dispute Resolution Portal.

Need Help? | Check Systems Status

Log In to other FINRA systems

Trading Options: Understanding Assignment

Financial chart on LCD display stock photo

The options market can seem to have a language of its own. To the average investor, there are likely a number of unfamiliar terms, but for an individual with a short options position—someone who has sold call or put options—there is perhaps no term more important than " assignment "—the fulfilling of the requirements of an options contract.

Options trading carries risk and requires specific approval from an investor's brokerage firm. For information about the inherent risks and characteristics of the options market, refer to the Characteristics and Risks of Standardized Options also known as the Options Disclosure Document (ODD).

When someone buys options to open a new position ("Buy to Open"), they are buying a right —either the right to buy the underlying security at a specified price (the strike price) in the case of a call option, or the right to sell the underlying security in the case of a put option.

On the flip side, when an individual sells, or writes, an option to open a new position ("Sell to Open"), they are accepting an obligation —either an obligation to sell the underlying security at the strike price in the case of a call option or the obligation to buy that security in the case of a put option. When an individual sells options to open a new position, they are said to be "short" those options. The seller does this in exchange for receiving the option's premium from the buyer.

Learn more about  options from FINRA or access free courses like Options 101 at OCC Learning .

American-style options allow the buyer of a contract to exercise at any time during the life of the contract, whereas European-style options can be exercised only during a specified period just prior to expiration. For an investor selling American-style options, one of the risks is that the investor may be called upon at any time during the contract's term to fulfill its obligations. That is, as long as a short options position remains open, the seller may be subject to "assignment" on any day equity markets are open. 

What is assignment?

An option assignment represents the seller's obligation to fulfill the terms of the contract by either selling or buying the underlying security at the exercise price. This obligation is triggered when the buyer of an option contract exercises their right to buy or sell the underlying security.

To ensure fairness in the distribution of American-style and European-style option assignments, the Options Clearing Corporation (OCC), which is the options industry clearing house, has an established process to randomly assign exercise notices to firms with an account that has a short option position. Once a firm receives an assignment, it then assigns this notice to one of its customers who has a short option contract of the same series. This short option contract is selected from a pool of such customers, either at random or by some other procedure specific to the brokerage firm. 

How does an investor know if an option position will be assigned?

While an option seller will always have some level of uncertainty, being assigned may be a somewhat predictable event. Only about 7% of options positions are typically exercised, but that does not imply that investors can expect to be assigned on only 7% of their short positions. Investors may have some, all or none of their short positions assigned.

And while the majority of American-style options exercises (and assignments) happen on or near the contract's expiration, a long options holder can exercise their right at any time, even if the underlying security is halted for trading. Someone may exercise their options early based upon a significant price movement in the underlying security or if shares become difficult to borrow as the result of a pending corporate action such as a buyout or takeover. 

Note: European-style options can only be exercised during a specified period just prior to expiration. In U.S. markets, the majority of options on commodity and index futures are European-style, while options on stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETF) are American-style. So, while SPDR S&P 500, or SPY options, which are options tied to an ETF that tracks the S&P 500, are American-style options, S&P 500 Index options, or SPX options, which are tied to S&P 500 futures contracts, are European-style options.

What happens after an option is assigned?

An investor who is assigned on a short option position is required to meet the terms of the written option contract upon receiving notification of the assignment. In the case of a short equity call, the seller of the option must deliver stock at the strike price and in return receives cash. An investor who doesn't already own the shares will need to acquire and deliver shares in return for cash in the amount of the strike price, multiplied by 100, since each contract represents 100 shares. In the case of a short equity put, the seller of the option is required to purchase the stock at the strike price.

How might an investor's account balance fluctuate after opening a short options position?

It is normal to see an account balance fluctuate after opening a short option position. Investors who have questions or concerns or who do not understand reported trade balances and assets valuations should contact their brokerage firm immediately for an explanation. Please keep in mind that short option positions can incur substantial risk in certain situations.

For example, say XYZ stock is trading at $40 and an investor sells 10 contracts for XYZ July 50 calls at $1.00, collecting a premium of $1,000, since each contract represents 100 shares ($1.00 premium x 10 contracts x 100 shares). Consider what happens if XYZ stock increases to $60, the call is exercised by the option holder and the investor is assigned. Should the investor not own the stock, they must now acquire and deliver 1,000 shares of XYZ at a price of $50 per share. Given the current stock price of $60, the investor's short stock position would result in an unrealized loss of $9,000 (a $10,000 loss from delivering shares $10 below current stock price minus the $1,000 premium collected earlier).

Note: Even if the investor's short call position had not been assigned, the investor's account balance in this example would still be negatively affected—at least until the options expire if they are not exercised. The investor's account position would be updated to reflect the investor's unrealized loss—what they could lose if an option is exercised (and they are assigned) at the current market price. This update does not represent an actual loss (or gain) until the option is actually exercised and the investor is assigned. 

What happens if an investor opened a multi-leg strategy, but one leg is assigned?

American-style option holders have the right to exercise their options position prior to expiration regardless of whether the options are in-, at- or out-of-the-money. Investors can be assigned if any market participant holding calls or puts of the same series submits an exercise notice to their brokerage firm. When one leg is assigned, subsequent action may be required, which could include closing or adjusting the remaining position to avoid potential capital or margin implications resulting from the assignment. These actions may not be attractive and may result in a loss or a less-than-ideal gain.

If an investor's short option is assigned, the investor will be required to perform in accordance with their obligation to purchase or deliver the underlying security, regardless of the overall risk of their position when taking into account other options that may be owned as part of the overall multi-leg strategy. If the investor owns an option that serves to limit the risk of the overall spread position, it is up to the investor to exercise that option or to take other action to limit risk. 

Below are a couple of examples that underscore how important it is for every investor to understand the risks associated with potential assignment during market hours and potentially adverse price movements in afterhours trading.

Example #1: An investor is short March 50 XYZ puts and long March 55 XYZ puts. At the close of business on March expiration, XYZ is priced at $56 per share, and both puts are out of the money, which means they have no intrinsic value. However, due to an unexpected news announcement shortly after the closing bell, the price of XYZ drops to $40 in after-hours trading. This could result in an assignment of the short March 50 puts, requiring the investor to purchase shares of XYZ at $50 per share. The investor would have needed to exercise the long March 55 puts in order to realize the gain on the initial multi-leg position. If the investor did not exercise the March 55 puts, those puts may expire and the investor may be exposed to the loss on the XYZ purchase at $50, a $10 per share loss with XYZ now trading at $40 per share, without receiving the benefit of selling XYZ at $55.

Example #2: An investor is short March 50 XYZ puts and long April 50 XYZ puts. At the close of business on March expiration, XYZ is priced at $45 per share, and the investor is assigned XYZ stock at $50. The investor will now own shares of XYZ at $50, along with the April 50 XYZ puts, which may be exercised at the investor's discretion. If the investor chooses not to exercise the April 50 puts, they will be required to pay for the shares that were assigned to them on the short March 50 XYZ puts until the April 50 puts are exercised or shares are otherwise disposed of.

Note: In either example, the short put position may be assigned prior to expiration at the discretion of the option holder. Investors can check with their brokerage firm regarding their option exercise procedures and cut-off times.

For options-specific questions, you may contact OCC's Investor Education team at [email protected] , via chat on OptionsEducation.org or subscribe to the OIC newsletter . If you have questions about options trading in your brokerage account, we encourage you to contact your brokerage firm. If after doing so you have not resolved the issue or have additional concerns, you can contact FINRA .

Alphabet Soup

3 Things to Know About Financial Designations

America Saves Week

America, It's Time to Save

No 401(k)? No Problem

No 401(k)? No Problem

Cryptocurrency-Related Stock Scams

How to Avoid Cryptocurrency-Related Stock Scams

Self-Directed IRAs and the Risk of Fraud

Investor Alert: Self-Directed IRAs and the Risk of Fraud

What Is an Option Assignment?

vanguard option assignment

Definition and Examples of Assignment

How does assignment work, what it means for individual investors.

Morsa Images / Getty Images

An option assignment represents the seller of an option’s obligation to fulfill the terms of the contract by either selling or purchasing the underlying security at the exercise price. Let’s explain what that means in more detail.

Key Takeaways

An assignment represents the seller of an option’s obligation to fulfill the terms of the contract by either selling or purchasing the underlying security at the exercise price. Let’s explain what that means in more detail.

When you sell an option to someone, you’re selling them the right to make you engage in a future transaction. For example, if you sell someone a put option , you’re promising to buy a stock at a set price any time between when the transaction happens and the expiration date of the option.

If the holder of the option doesn’t do anything with the option by the expiration date, the option expires. However, if they decide that they want to go through with the transaction, they will exercise the option. 

If the holder of an option chooses to exercise it, the seller will receive a notification, called an assignment, letting them know that the option holder is exercising their right to complete the transaction. The seller is legally obligated to fulfill the terms of the options contract.

For example, if you sell a call option on XYZ with a strike price of $40 and the buyer chooses to exercise the option, you’ll be assigned the obligation to fulfill that contract. You’ll have to buy 100 shares of XYZ at whatever the market price is, or take the shares from your own portfolio and sell them to the option holder for $40 each.

Options traders only have to worry about assignment if they sell options contracts. Those who buy options don’t have to worry about assignment because in this case, they have the power to exercise a contract, or choose not to.

The options market is huge, in that options are traded on large exchanges and you likely do not know who you’re buying contracts from or selling them to. It’s not like you sell an option to someone you know and they send you an email if they choose to exercise the contract, rather it is an organized process.

In the U.S., the Options Clearing Corporation (OCC), which is considered the options industry clearinghouse, helps to facilitate the exchange of options contracts. It guarantees a fair process of option assignments, ensuring that the obligations in the contract are fulfilled.

When an investor chooses to exercise a contract, the OCC randomly assigns the obligation to someone who sold the option being exercised. For example, if 100 people sold XYZ calls with a strike of $40, and one of those options gets exercised, the OCC will randomly assign that obligation to one of the 100 sellers.

In general, assignments are uncommon. About 7% of options get exercised, with the remaining 93% expiring. Assignment also tends to grow more common as the expiration date nears.

If you are assigned the obligation to fulfill an options contract you sold, it means you have to accept the related loss and fulfill the contract. Usually, your broker will handle the transaction on your behalf automatically.

If you’re an individual investor, you only have to worry about assignment if you’re involved in selling options. Even then, assignments aren't incredibly common. Less than 7% of options get assigned and they tend to get assigned as the option’s expiration date gets closer.

Having an option assigned does mean that you are forced to lock in a loss on an option, which can hurt. However, if you’re truly worried about assignment, you can plan to close your position at some point before the expiration date or use options strategies that don’t involve selling options that could get exercised.

The Options Industry Council. " Options Assignment FAQ: How Can I Tell When I Will Be Assigned? " Accessed Oct. 18, 2021.

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.

Vanguard: Broker Review for Options Trading

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources , and more. Learn More

Vanguard offers more than just funds. See how it compares for options trading on key criteria like commissions, multi-leg options strategies, and more.

Many know Vanguard for pioneering the index fund, but the company also offers brokerage services for trading everything from stocks to stock options. Let's review how Vanguard stacks up for investors who use options in their investment portfolio. Here's what investors should know before opening a brokerage account  to trade options. 

Vanguard's commission prices

Ultimately, commissions are just one factor that goes into choosing a broker, but they are certainly one of the more important factors to consider. Vanguard employs a commission structure that rewards its most loyal investors with lower commission prices for investing more in its mutual funds and ETFs.

Source: Company website. *Vanguard ETFs are commission-free.

Importantly, the prices above only reflect published prices, and there are important nuances to understand when it comes to commission prices, which we'll dive into in a moment. Some investors may qualify for special offers for opening an account , including perks such as commission-free trades and cash bonuses, which serve as an effective discount to published prices.

A $50 bill in a change jar.

Vanguard offers commission prices that reward loyal clients. Image source: Getty Images.

Multi-leg options and exercise and assignment fees

The beauty of stock options is that they can be used in any number of ways. Some investors simply buy puts and calls , others write puts to generate income and to buy stock, and a smaller percentage employ complex option strategies that involve buying and selling multiple contracts in one order.

Data sources: company website, company representatives.

Vanguard's value proposition for options traders varies tremendously with how much the investor has in its funds and ETFs. Complex option trades may be prohibitively expensive for small accounts, as a two-leg options trade involving 10 call contracts and 10 put contracts would result in two base rate charges of $20.00, plus $1.00 for each contract. The total commission for this trade would be $60.00 (2*$20+2*10*$1). For wealthier clients, the trade would cost as little as $20.00 (20*$1).

Importantly, Vanguard doesn't discount commissions for options with a low value. At a commission price of $1.00 per contract, the commission would equate to 10% of the value of a trade involving options priced at $0.10 each. Other brokers have discounted commissions for low-price options.

Minimum deposit requirements for options trading

Vanguard doesn't require a certain minimum deposit to open a brokerage account, and thus investors can get started with whatever they deem appropriate. That said, options strategies that expose the investor to potentially higher losses (writing put options, for example) typically require larger account balances. All brokers have their own risk-management policies that vary by the type and size of a trade.

Review: Vanguard for options trading

Given its comparatively high commissions for each contract, Vanguard is perhaps best suited for investors who keep substantial sums in its funds and ETFs, and who use options sparingly. Those who merely dabble in options might find the convenience of keeping their accounts in one place to be a motivating factor behind choosing Vanguard, but particularly active options traders might gravitate toward lower-cost brokers. To be clear, The Motley Fool does not endorse any particular brokerage, but we can help you find one that is a good fit for you. Check out the  Fool.com Broker Center  to compare several brokers all on one page and to see if you qualify for extra perks just for opening an account. 

Related Articles


Our Most Popular Articles

GettyImages Roth vs Tradition 401k

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.

Unlock the Ballistic Shield in Battlefield 4 and Complete the Vanguard Assignment

vanguard option assignment

Head Back to the Free Prima Games Dragon’s Teeth Guide

With Battlefield 4 Dragon’s Teeth now available to Premium members, players are not only battling it out in the all new Chain Link game mode, they’re also hard at work trying to complete a batch of new assignments. With weapons like the Unica 6 and Deagle 44 up for grabs, there are plenty of people to shoot while hanging out at the dam on Sunken Dragon .

While it’s not exactly a weapon, the Ballistic Shield, a gadget that can be unlocked for the Support class, is also bound to be a hot item. With that in mind, we thought we’d share a few tips and tricks to help you complete the Vanguard assignment with as little fuss as possible.

5 Savior Kills

The first part of the assignment is something that can’t really be forced, and that is a theme that continues throughout the remainder of the requirements. Getting Savior Kills is exactly as it sounds… killing an enemy soldier and saving one of your teammates from harm. While being heroic is all fine and dandy, it’s very hard to plan for this type of kill. Still, in a single evening of Battlefield 4 action, you should have no trouble knocking this one off your list.

20 Suppression Assists

A Suppression Assist, as strange as it may sound, doesn’t involve actually shooting your opponent. Instead, you want to shoot close to your foe, causing them to become disoriented, then letting your teammate finish the job.

Once again, this one isn’t really something that you can control, but there are things you can do to increase your chances. First of all, try using an LMG from the Support class, or a Sniper Rifle from the Recon class. Use the LMG to send a hail of gunfire down narrow pathways, and the Sniper Rifle to spot and engage targets from a distance. Both options are bound to give you ample Suppression Assists. If you’re not in a hurry, just play the game as you normally would and let them happen naturally.

Destroy 3 Explosives

Continuing with the straightforward objectives, the last part of this assignment is to destroy three pieces of enemy explosives. They can be Claymores, C4, M15 AT Mines or even M2 Slams. You obviously can’t control if or where the enemy deploys these devices, but you can play maps and game modes that are likely to see heavy use.

Get into a game of Conquest Large, then hop into a Light Armored Vehicle. There are no guarantees, but where there are vehicles, you can usually count on lots of explosives nearby as well. As you’re moving, continue to spot the ground in front of you, waiting to spy a few M15 AT Mines or M2 Slams. Once you’ve found them, shoot them to complete this assignment and unlock the Ballistic Shield. If you’re more into the infantry combat, be on the lookout for Claymores in stairwells and doorways. You should find lots of them on Pearl Market.

Of course, unlocking the Ballistic Shield is the easy part, where as finding a useful place to use it is likely to be much more difficult. We busted this bad boy out on Pearl Market, but just ended up getting blown up and shot in the back more than anything. Even as a melee weapon, the Ballistic Shield will take several hits to kill your enemy. Still, if you’d like to see it in action (as well as see a few additional tips to completing the assignment), check out the video below by Harri Does Gaming .

Prima Games Staff

' src=

The staff at Prima Games.

Suggestions on efficient rolling through Vanguard website

vanguard option assignment

Recently got the okay to trade option in my Vanguard IRA. Am now in a situation where I want to roll a position out to avoid assignment. Is there a quick and efficient way of doing that in their platform short of doing two separate transactions? I'm spoiled by TOS and Tastyworks, and now I feel like I'm trying to send a text message on a rotary phone. Anyone have hints or tricks to doing this efficiently? I don't expect the underlying to move much mind you, it just feels so damned clunky. Suggestions appreciated!

' src=

Yeah if you call vanguard support they’ll straight up tell you they’re not designed for options. They offer them because everyone does and they need to compete but they have their drawbacks. Can’t roll, no naked options at all, you have to do spread orders over the phone, they’re expensive. The support guy I spoke to when I first started options told me if I was serious about options to switch to TD.

Yea I used to tell clients that we aren’t designed for options trading. For a lot of the advanced strategies you need to call in to place the trades. But why would you expect Vanguard to have a good interface for option trading haha

There is no easy way with Vanguard. You’re manually entering each option. And opening the buy/sell in another tab doesn’t help either. Maybe two separate browsers would help, I haven’t tried.

I only use Vanguard for CSP’s these days. It’s expensive and gives no data on the Greeks.

Vanguard is not designed to trade options. If you want to do options regularly in an IRA, move to another broker. I have IRAs at Etrade with option level 3 approval (spreads).

Fidelity is also an option

Doh! That’s what I was afraid of. I’ve been with Vanguard for a long time and am a firm believer of buy and hold lost cost indexes (Yeah John B!). I was hoping to at least be able to do some simple wheels but might have to use another brokerage for that. Thanks all!

Whatever, just keep doing buy and hold and setup another account for play.

I’m in the same boat as you. I currently have a CC on VTI with the strike getting close to the actual share price. The issue is I’ll have to manually roll (sell another CC further out). Wait over night for it to settle. Then buy back current CC.

I have enough VTI shares to do 6 contracts but if all 6 are going ITM, then I don’t have enough shares left to sell a new CC for a roll. So the only way is to not max out the CC each month e.g. sell maximum 3 CC each month.

I’m sticking with Vanguard (for now) because my primary strategy is buy and hold. Option income is secondary. I’m considering ACAT transfer a small portion of my IRA to another broker to make rolling easier with lower fees.

Edit: On second thought its probably best to use stock/ETF that doesn't keep going up like VTI. Therefore there's less effort needed to do these manual rolls. For example, when charting VNQ and VWO against VTI over 10 years, both these ETFs stayed pretty level over time. Even at a broker like Fidelity that support rolling, less rolls with level stocks/ETFs should mean less commission & fees over time since a roll requires closing and re-opening positions.

I'll probably split my VXUS into 25% VWO and 75% VEA and wheel VWO. Then convert my VGSLX to VNQ so I can wheel it as well.

About Community

Subreddit Icon

Covered Calls - Born To Sell

Will I Be Assigned?

by Mike Scanlin

As the market nears closing time on expiration Friday, covered call writers want to know if they will be assigned or not for tax reasons, margin reasons, and portfolio optimization reasons. Let's look at the issue from the point of view of both people involved in the trade: the option holder who is long the call option, and the covered call writer who is short the same call option.

Option Assignment

"Assignment" means the call option you sold short as part of your covered call trade is now being exercised. That means some option holder somewhere wants his stock and you have been chosen by the OCC (Options Clearing Corp) to receive the assignment. It's a random process; each time the OCC gets an exercise notice they randomly choose from among all the short calls (in the same series) who will receive the assignment.

options assignment

If you are chosen by OCC your broker will be notified and your broker will, in turn, notify you. You will need to make good on your promise to deliver the shares of stock and, in exchange, receive the strike-price-per-share in cash, as per the option agreement.

What determines if the option holder exercises?

It's really up to them. It's their option and they can do what they want with it. They can even exercise it if the stock price is below the strike price of the option (i.e. it's out of the money). It wouldn't make any economic sense to do so, but it is allowed. The option holder has the right to exercise at any time for any reason.

Normal circumstances when call options are exercised by rational people

(1) The stock closes above the strike price on the option's expiration day.

This is the typical case for exercise. The option holder exercises his in-the-money option to acquire the stock for less than the current price. He only has to pay the strike price. If the stock closes at $43 and the strike price is 40, he only pays $40/share to acquire the stock.

(2) For in-the-money options, the day before ex-dividend day when there is zero time premium remaining in the option.

This is called "early exercise" and normally only happens when there is no time premium left in the option because the option holder forfeits any remaining time premium when he exercises. It doesn't make economic sense for him to exercise when there is still time premium remaining in the option; he's better off just selling the option in that case. But if there is zero time premium and he knows the stock is likely to open lower the next morning by the amount of the dividend that is about to be paid, he will do an early exercise to capture the dividend.

What about the day before earnings?

That's not a good time to exercise an option. There will be lots of time premium in the option (which will be forfeited if exercised) because of earnings uncertainty. If the option holder wants out of the position (maybe he's worried about volatility decreasing after earnings come out which could lower the value of his option) then he's better off just selling the option instead of exercising it.

What if the stock closes very near the strike price?

This one is tricky.

For starters, stocks continue to trade for several hours in the aftermarket after the regular market closes. The stock's closing price Friday at 4pm Eastern Time (regular market hours closing) may not represent the closing price during extended hours trading. And option holders have until Saturday (when options technically expire) to give their brokers exercise notices. So it's possible for a stock to close just below the strike price during regular hours on expiration Friday but then close above the strike price in extended hours. In that case the option would likely be exercised.

But not always.

It depends on several factors: (1) What are the transaction costs of the person doing the exercising? (2) What is the personal opinion of the option holder for the stock at Monday morning's open? It's possible the option could finish slightly in the money during extended trading hours and still not be exercised because the option holder believes the stock will open lower (below the strike price) on Monday morning. Maybe there's some event happening over the weekend that he believes will cause the stock (or the whole market) to open lower on Monday.

Imagine a covered call that has been written at a strike of 50. On expiration Friday at the close the stock's price was within a few pennies of 50 (above or below; it doesn't matter). Will it be exercised?

It depends on what the option holder believes will happen Monday morning. And not all option holders believe the same thing, causing less than 100% of all 50-strike options to be exercised. And since option assignment is random, you can't be sure if you'll be assigned or not. The purple oval here is a mystery and subject to personal opinion:

options assignment near strike price

The decision to exercise (or not) is the option holder's right but not his obligation . He can let in-the-money options expire unexercised if he so chooses, based on his beliefs of where the stock will open on the next trading day.

My stock is within a few cents of the strike price and it's almost closing time on expiration day. What should I do?

This is the most common question. The answer is "it depends", "do you feel lucky?", and "you can never tell for sure." If you don't want the stock called away for whatever reason (taxes, margin, etc) then buy the call option back before the option market closes. It may cost you a nickel or two (plus an option trade commission) but that's the only certain way to avoid assignment.

Remember, stocks trade for a few more hours after the regular market closes so if your stock closes 10 cents below the strike during regular hours but then rises 25 cents above the strike during extended hours then you are probably out of luck. It will likely be called away (unlike stocks, options don't trade after hours, so you can't buy the option back during extended trading hours).

If you are in a situation where you don't want something called away then the best plan is to monitor the amount of time premium remaining in the option. Most option holders won't exercise if the time premium is greater than zero. If your time premium is getting small (5 to 10 cents, depends on the bid-ask spread of the underlying stock) then it's a good time to roll the option to something that has more time premium in it. The greater the time premium the smaller chance of exercise.

How do I calculate time premium?

The short answer for in-the-money options is (strike price + call price) minus stock price. So if the stock is 53 and you've sold a 50-strike call currently trading at 4 then the time premium is (50 + 4) - 53 = 1. There is 1 point of time premium in the option.

The longer answer is that stocks and options have bid prices and ask prices. So which to use? Or should you use the last trade price? We'll cover that in a future article . In the mean time, check out the tutorial on time premium .

Like covered calls?   Check out our Covered Call Screener

Mike Scanlin is the founder of Born To Sell and has been writing covered calls for a long time.

Top Searches

Trending symbols, trending articles, recently viewed symbols.

News & Insights


Options Basics: How the Option Assignment Process Works

July 23, 2021 — 12:46 pm EDT

Written by [email protected] for Schaeffer  ->

There is a lot of technical jargon that is specific to the options market. For a beginner who is aiming to learn how to trade options, understanding these technical terms is crucial to optimizing trading results. One phrase that is a critical part of this options trading language is “assignment.” Simply defined, the assignment of an option refers to the fulfillment of the options contract by the seller. An option holder has the right to buy or sell the underlying equity at the given strike price. Once the holder decides to exercise the option, the option is said to be “assigned.” If a trader sells options, he must be aware of the assignment process and the risks it entails. We recommend subscribing to one of Schaeffer's options trading newsletters  to gain the ultimate insights into the language of the options market while making money, too.

What Does it Mean to Write an Option?

When an options seller writes an options contract, this is known as a “sell to open” trade, as he is essentially opening a new position. As the trader is selling the option to open this position, he is technically said to be “short” that underlying stock. The seller accepts a responsibility to sell or buy the underlying security in lieu of a premium received from the buyer. As a general rule, an option holder can exercise his rights any time before the contract expires. In order to learn to trade options, it is necessary to grasp this structure of corresponding rights and duties. It's important to also note that most options are exercised when they are nearing expiry because, after that, the options contract is worthless.

How Does the Option Assignment Process Work?

The assignment process is done at random by the Options Clearing Corporation (OCC) . A trader will become more acquainted with the operations of the OCC as he or she learns to trade options. When a buyer exercises his option, the OCC will randomly connect them with a brokerage that is short on options of that equity. Due to the lottery-like nature of the process, it is almost impossible to predict when an investor’s option may be assigned.

2 Categories of Options to Understand

As a brief summary, let’s go over the two basic categories of options. These categories and their respective merits become apparent as one learns to trade options. In a call option, the option holder possesses the right to buy the security before the contract expires. In this scenario, the seller’s obligation is to sell the option upon assignment.

The inverse of this is the put option. In this category, the holder has the right to sell to the security at the contract price. The consequence of this is that upon assignment, the seller must purchase the security at the strike price. If an investor does not own the stock, he must first buy it. After this, he must deliver it to the holder.

Initially, a seller has an edge in the options trading process. He starts with a net benefit as a premium is paid to him by the buyer without him giving any monetary return immediately. If an option is never exercised, the seller actually retains the premium if the contract expires.

However, the issues arise as the contract nears its expiry, as the chances of assignment increase exponentially. The problem for investors when called to assign are three-fold: 1) they have no control over when the option is exercised, 2) they must fulfill their end of the bargain irrespective of whether this could lead to a loss or a low gain, and 3) even if the underlying stock is not trading, in a call option the deliver the stock to the buyer.

Can an Options Seller Predict When an Option Will Be Exercised?

It would be misleading if we were say there is some magic formula that we could use to predict when an option will be exercised. Traders will understand how frequent assignment occurs once they more completely learn to trade options. However, a general statistic is that approximately 7% of options are actually ever exercised. Even though, technically, an option can be assigned any time while the contract remains open, option holders usually exercise their option near its expiration date. This is because traders usually wait to find the ideal time and observe trading prices. As you learn to trade options, you will realize that very few buyers ever exercise options ahead of expiration.

When is Options Assignment Less Likely?

Even though we cannot accurately predict when an option will be exercised, there are certain indicators traders can use. These indicators are easier to see when you learn to trade options and observe market trends.

An assignment is less probable when an option is out-of-the-money. An option is out-of-the-money when the security is trading at a higher value in the market as compared to the strike price. It is rarely recommended to sell an option that is out-of-the-money. This is because if the strike price is lower than the market value, the option holder will make a loss on the contract. If the strike price is $30, and the market value is $20 and the holder exercises the call option, they will end up taking a loss since they are buying it at a higher price. As investors learn to trade options, they can better predict the time of assignment with greater accuracy.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

Schaeffer logo

More Related Articles

Sign up for smart investing to get the latest news, strategies and tips to help you invest smarter..

To add symbols:

These symbols will be available throughout the site during your session.

Your symbols have been updated

Edit watchlist.

vanguard option assignment

Woman smiling sitting at a desk

Your tax information center

Whether it's tax forms, deadlines, or important updates, everything you need to take on tax season is in one place.

Younger, bearded investor learns more about planning with Vanguard.

Find the right path for your future

Get there on your own terms.

Vanguard's economic and market outlook for 2023 is available

Learn what we expect will shape the global economic environment in 2023.

Designed for you. Built by experts. See how our advice puts you first. Compare options

Forgot your username or password?

Sign up for online account access

COVID-19 alerts and mail service interruptions

Due to COVID-19, the United States Postal Service and other carriers have temporarily suspended mail service to various international jurisdictions. Vanguard is currently unable to deliver certain account or holdings-related communications to those jurisdictions. To sign up for electronic delivery of mail communications,  log on to our e-delivery page .

Guiding you on your journey

Women smiling while talking to her Vanguard advisor

Explore professional advice

We offer expert help at the low cost you’d expect from Vanguard.

Screenshot of Digital Advisor App homepage

Learn about accounts & plans

Discover more about accounts that fit your investing goals.

A woman smiling

Do it on your own

Ready to plan your financial future? We have what you need to be a successful DIY investor.

You're in good company.

Our unique, investor-owned structure keeps us focused on your needs first.* Your goals are always our goals.

See why we're different

The world of investing can seem vast and overwhelming if you haven’t been a part of it before.

But if you take things one step at a time, you can make a plan that’ll get you started on the right path toward your financial goals.

First, it’s important to decide what those goals are. Maybe you want to save for retirement. Or college. Or scuba diving in Fiji. Or maybe you just want to save more in general.

Once you have those goalposts in mind, that’s what will determine the kind of account you should open. Think IRAs for retirement, 529s for college savings, and individual or joint accounts for general savings.

Once you’ve settled on an account type for your journey, it’s time to pack your bags—in other words, you’ll need to choose what kinds of investments to hold in your account to give your money the best chance to grow over time. There are three kinds of assets you can invest in: stocks, bonds, and cash. You can—and should—mix and match them. That’s called diversification, and it’s important for managing risk.

First, let’s talk about stocks. When you buy a stock, you own a piece of a company and its profits. Stocks have high growth potential, but with that comes high risk, so you’ll want to balance stock purchases out with less risky ones, like …

Bonds. Bonds are loans where you’re the creditor. You lend money to the bond issuer in exchange for repayment with interest by a certain date. We consider them moderate-risk investments.

And finally, there’s cash. Cash in your portfolio can preserve the value of your money when you’re saving for short-term goals. It carries the least risk when it comes to losing money, but there’s also not much potential for growth.

We think the best portfolios strike a balance between risk and reward. Now that you know about the different kinds of investments, you can get moving on those goals you set. And you can start asking yourself questions like: When do I want to retire? How soon do I want to be face-to-face with those sea turtles in Fiji? That will help you decide on a timeline for investing—and what your approach will be.

Still have questions about getting started with investing? We’re here to help. Visit us on the web at vanguard.com/gettingstarted.

View transcript

Know exactly what you’re looking for?

Explore our great ETF & mutual fund options.

You’re not alone

Once my debt is behind me, the rest of my life can finally come into focus.

Today my daughter told me she wants to buy a robot unicorn. I told her we can save up for that.

We want to pass down our love, our laughter, and our legacy.

Family time means everything to me. My life won't get smaller when I retire, but it will get a lot more beautiful.

A track record of strong fund performance

Explore our resources to learn how to grow your wealth and reach your goals.

vanguard option assignment


New to investing and need a hand?

See all perspectives

Popular in perspectives

Getting started with investing

Turn your goal into an investment plan

Market volatility and you

vanguard option assignment

Use our tools to help you build a plan to meet your investing goals.

See all tools

Popular in tools

Retirement income calculator

Retirement expenses worksheet

College savings planner

*Vanguard is investor-owned. As an investor-owner, you own the funds that own Vanguard.

**For the 10-year period ended December 31, 2021, 7 of 7 Vanguard money market funds, 67 of 86 Vanguard bond funds, 21 of 24 Vanguard balanced funds, and 128 of 183 Vanguard stock funds—for a total of 223 of 300 Vanguard funds—outperformed their Lipper peer group averages. Results will vary for other time periods. Only mutual funds and ETFs (exchange-traded funds) with a minimum 10-year history were included in the comparison. Source: Lipper, a Thomson Reuters Company. The competitive performance data shown represents past performance, which is not a guarantee of future results. View fund performance

All investing is subject to risk, including the possible loss of the money you invest.

Advice services are provided by Vanguard Advisers, Inc., a registered investment advisor, or by Vanguard National Trust Company, a federally chartered, limited-purpose trust company.

The services provided to clients who elect to receive ongoing advice will vary based upon the amount of assets in a portfolio. Please review the Form CRS and Vanguard Personal Advisor Services Brochure (PDF) for important details about the service, including its asset-based service levels and fee breakpoints.

Research our firm with  FINRA's BrokerCheck.

Investment Adviser Form Client Relationship Summary (Form CRS) (PDF)

Broker-Dealer Form Client Relationship Summary (Form CRS) (PDF)


  1. Vanguard Review: A Leader In Low Cost Investing

    vanguard option assignment

  2. Vanguard Review: A Leader In Low Cost Investing

    vanguard option assignment

  3. Vanguard

    vanguard option assignment

  4. Vanguard Review 2021

    vanguard option assignment

  5. 26. Vanguard

    vanguard option assignment

  6. Call of Duty: Vanguard Alpha- How to play, How to access, and more

    vanguard option assignment


  1. Free Lease Option Agreements Package #shorts

  2. English week 1 graded assignments

  3. Vanguard Reveals How to Grow Your Wealth!

  4. Early Option Assignment

  5. Options Assignment Explained

  6. Options have an expiration date


  1. Vanguard

    To request a Prospectus for a Non Vanguard Mutual Fund or ETF by mail, please contact us at 1-800-VANGUARD. Open a nonretirement account Open a retirement account Special notice to non-U.S. investors Contact us Open account forms Manage your account forms Review or modify your literature order

  2. Buying and selling options

    There are 2 basic kinds of options: calls and puts. With options trading, you gain the right to either buy or sell a specific security at a locked-in price sometime in the future. Get details on the types of options How to trade options You have 4 ways to make options transactions: Buy to open. An order to purchase an option. Sell to close.

  3. Brokerage services commission & fee schedules

    Leading with low costs no matter what you trade. Open an account Pay $0 commission to trade stocks & ETFs online Combine that with higher-yielding money market funds and industry-leading ETFs, and you'll see that a Vanguard Brokerage Account takes you well beyond zeros. Take a closer look at Vanguard Brokerage As of January 25, 2021 ETFs

  4. Vanguard Options Trading Level 1, 2, 3, and 4 in 2023

    Vanguard has four levels of options approval, detailed as follows: Level 1: Write covered calls, purchase protective puts, and write covered puts. (Margin approval is required to write covered puts.) Level 2: Purchase calls and puts. Write cash-secured puts. (Includes Level 1.) Level 3: Trade equity and index spreads. (Includes Levels 1 and 2.)

  5. Question about Vanguard options trading and lot assignment

    Question about Vanguard options trading and lot assignment Join the #1 Early Retirement and Financial Independence Forum Today - It's Totally Free! Are you planning to be financially independent as early as possible so you can live life on your own terms?

  6. Trading Options: Understanding Assignment

    An option assignment represents the seller's obligation to fulfill the terms of the contract by either selling or buying the underlying security at the exercise price. This obligation is triggered when the buyer of an option contract exercises their right to buy or sell the underlying security. To ensure fairness in the distribution of American ...

  7. PDF Vanguard Brokerage Services commission and fee schedules

    Vanguard assets in each calendar year for any combination of options and transaction-fee (TF) mutual funds. The number is limited to 25 per client with at least $1 million to $5 million in qualifying Vanguard assets and 100 per client with at least $5 million or more in qualifying Vanguard assets as identified by the primary Social Security

  8. What Is an Option Assignment?

    An assignment represents the seller of an option's obligation to fulfill the terms of the contract by either selling or purchasing the underlying security at the exercise price. If you sell an option and get assigned, you have to fulfill the transaction outlined in the option. You can only get assigned if you sell options, not if you buy them.

  9. Anyone use Vanguard for options trading? : r/options

    Vanguard has $1 for options. Other brokers may seem cheaper, then look at what they charge for exercise and assignment fees. Some of those exercise and assignment fees can really eat away at your profits.

  10. Mutual funds, IRAs, ETFs, 401(k) plans, and more

    Vanguard isn't owned by shareholders. It's owned by the people who invest in our funds.* As an owner you have access to personalized financial advice, high-quality investments, retirement tools, and relevant market insights that help you build a future for those you love.

  11. PDF Vanguard Brokerage Account Agreement

    Assignment c. Liability d. Severability e. Entire Agreement, Amendment, and Waiver f. Arbitration. 2 of 18 1. Introduction Vanguard Brokerage Services® (VBS®) is a division of Vanguard Marketing Corporation (VMC) and was created to offer retail brokerage services to clients. ... ETFs, stocks, bonds, options (collectively, "Securities ...

  12. Vanguard: Broker Review for Options Trading

    Vanguard's value proposition for options traders varies tremendously with how much the investor has in its funds and ETFs. Complex option trades may be prohibitively expensive for small...

  13. Unlock the Ballistic Shield in Battlefield 4 and Complete the Vanguard

    Both options are bound to give you ample Suppression Assists. If you're not in a hurry, just play the game as you normally would and let them happen naturally. Destroy 3 Explosives. Continuing with the straightforward objectives, the last part of this assignment is to destroy three pieces of enemy explosives.

  14. Suggestions on efficient rolling through Vanguard website

    Interesting ZeroHedge headline: The US CPI report will be the main highlight tomorrow, and will also serve as what JPMorgan calls a "market clearing event." While the BBG median consensus expects +8.8% YoY vs. +8.6% in June, Goldman and JPM expect 8.88% and 8.7% respectively, with whisper numbers at, or above, 9.0%.

  15. Will I Be Assigned?

    The short answer for in-the-money options is (strike price + call price) minus stock price. So if the stock is 53 and you've sold a 50-strike call currently trading at 4 then the time premium is (50 + 4) - 53 = 1. There is 1 point of time premium in the option. The longer answer is that stocks and options have bid prices and ask prices.

  16. Options Basics: How the Option Assignment Process Works

    The assignment process is done at random by the Options Clearing Corporation (OCC). A trader will become more acquainted with the operations of the OCC as he or she learns to trade options. When a ...

  17. PDF RMD Service Agreement

    The Vanguard Group, Inc., ... Distribution options Vanguard will distribute your RMD from your IRA(s) or other retirement plan(s) for each year you are enrolled in the Service in accordance with your instructions. If you have more than one eligible IRA or other retirement ... Effectiveness, assignment, and termination of the Service

  18. PDF Self-Directed Brokerage Accounts for Vanguard Directly Recordkept Plans

    Nickel buyback lets you buy back single order short option positions—for both calls and puts—without any commissions or contract fees if the price is a nickel or less. You don't have to wait for expiration. Please note: No exercise or assignment fees. Options involve risks and are not suitable for all investors.

  19. PDF Brokerage Commission and Fee Schedule

    Multi-Leg Option orders placed online are charged a per contract Options Fee for the total number of contracts executed in the trade. Multi-Leg Option orders placed through other channels are charged a commission and the 65¢ per contract fee. An "Additional Assessment" is also charged on any order to sell options contracts.

  20. Vanguard: Helping you reach your investing goals

    College savings planner. *Vanguard is investor-owned. As an investor-owner, you own the funds that own Vanguard. **For the 10-year period ended December 31, 2021, 7 of 7 Vanguard money market funds, 67 of 86 Vanguard bond funds, 21 of 24 Vanguard balanced funds, and 128 of 183 Vanguard stock funds—for a total of 223 of 300 Vanguard funds ...