The following page has been created in attempt to assist traders by providing answers to frequently asked questions related to US security option expiration, exercise, and assignment. Please feel free to contact us if your question is not addressed on this page or to request the addition of a question and answer.
Click on a question in the table of contents to jump to the question in this document.
How do I provide exercise instructions?
Instructions are to be entered through the TWS Option Exercise window. Procedures for exercising an option using the IB Trader Workstation can be found in the TWS User's Guide.
Important Note: In the event that an option exercise cannot be submitted via the TWS, an option exercise request with all pertinent details (including option symbol, account number and exact quantity), should be created in a ticket via the Account Management window. In the Account Management window, click on "Inquiry/Problem Ticket". The ticket should include the words "Option Exercise Request" in the subject line. Please provide a contact number and clearly state in your ticket why the TWS Option Exercise window was not available for use.
In the case of exchange listed U.S. securities options, the clearinghouse (OCC) will automatically exercise all cash and physically settled options which are in-the-money by at least $0.01 at expiration (e.g., a call option having a strike price of $25.00 will be automatically exercised if the stock price is $25.01 or more and a put option having a strike price of $25.00 will be automatically exercised if the stock price is $24.99 or less). In accordance with this process, referred to as exercise by exception, account holders are not required to provide IB with instructions to exercise any long options which are in-the-money by at least $0.01 at expiration.
Important Note: in certain situations (e.g., underlying stock halt, corporate action), OCC may elect to remove a particular class of options from the exercise by exception process, thereby requiring the account holder to provide positive notice of their intent to exercise their long option contracts regardless of the extent they may be in-the-money. In these situations, IB will make every effort to provide advance notice to the account holder of their obligation to respond, however, account holders purchasing such options on the last day of trading are not likely to be afforded any notice.
What if I have a long option which I do not want exercised?
If a long option is not in-the-money by at least $0.01 at expiration it will not be automatically exercised by OCC. If it is in-the-money by at least that amount and you do not wish to have it exercised, you would need to provide IB with contrary instructions to let the option lapse. These instructions would need to be entered through the TWS Option Exercise window prior to the deadline as stated on the IB website.
What can I do to prevent the assignment of a short option?
The only action one can take to prevent being assigned on a short option position is to buy back in the option prior to the close of trade on its last trading day (for equity options this is usually the Friday preceding the expiration date although there may also be weekly expiring options for certain classes). When you sell an option, you provided the purchaser with the right to exercise which they generally will do if the option is in-the-money at expiration.
Is it possible for a short option which is in-the-money not to be assigned?
While is unlikely that holders of in-the-money long options will elect to let the option lapse without exercising them, certain holders may do so due to transaction costs or risk considerations. In conjunction with its expiration processing, OCC will assign option exercises to short position holders via a random lottery process which, in turn, is applied by brokers to their customer accounts. It is possible through these random processes that short positions in your account be part of those which were not assigned.
What happens if I have a spread position with an in-the-money option and an out-of-the-money option?
Spread positions can have unique expiration risks associated with them. For example, an expiring spread where the long option is in-the-money by less than $0.01 and the short leg is in-the-money more than $0.01 may expire unhedged. Account holders are ultimately responsible for taking action on such positions and responsible for the risks associated with any unhedged spread leg expiring in-the-money.
Can IB exercise the out-of-the-money long leg of my spread position only if my in-the-money short leg is assigned?
No. There is no provision for issuing conditional exercise instructions to OCC. OCC determines the assignment of options based upon a random process which is initiated only after the deadline for submitting all exercise instructions has ended. In order to avoid the delivery of a long or short underlying stock position when only the short leg of an option spread is in-the-money at expiration, the account holder would need to either close out that short position or consider exercising an at-the-money long option.
What happens to my long stock position if a short option which is part of a covered write is assigned?
If the short call leg of a covered write position is assigned, the long stock position will be applied to satisfy the stock delivery obligation on the short call. The price at which that long stock position will be closed out is equal to the short call option strike price.
Am I charged a commission for exercise or assignments?
There is no commissions charged as the result of the delivery of a long or short position resulting from option exercise or assignment of a U.S. security option (note that this is not always the case for non-U.S. options).
What happens if I am unable to meet the margin requirement on a stock delivery resulting from an option exercise or assignment?
You should review your positions prior to expiration to determine whether you have adequate equity in your account to exercise your options. You should also determine whether you have adequate equity in the account if an in-the-money short option position is assigned to your account. You should also be aware that short options positions may be exercised against you by the long holder even if the option is out-of-the-money.
If you anticipate that you will be unable to meet the margin requirement on a stock delivery resulting from an option exercise or assignment, you should either close positions or deposit additional funds to your account to meet the anticipated post-delivery margin requirement.
If an option exercise or assignment results in the delivery of a long or short stock position and the account holder does not maintain sufficient equity to meet the ensuing margin requirement, IB may liquidate positions to restore margin compliance. While IB retains the right to liquidate at any time in such situations, liquidations involving U.S. security positions will typically begin at approximately 9:40 AM ET as of the business day following expiration.