About Us » Margin Guidelines

The following guidelines apply to optionsXpress accounts in general. Additional requirements may apply depending upon the specific transactions and positions in your account. optionsXpress reserves the right to request capital in addition to the requirements below. optionsXpress offers the ability to trade on margin as well as portfolio margin.

Please note: Before trading on margin, we recommend reviewing our Margin Disclosure Statement and other Risk information.

To open and maintain an optionsXpress margin account
Minimum Equity Requirements
Cash / Stock No Minimum
Cash / Options / Stock No Minimum
Margin / Options / Stock $2000 in marginable securities or cash (Minimum required equity for leveraged transactions)
Minimum basic maintenance equity requirements:
  • A minimum account value of $2,000 applies to margin accounts engaging in leveraged transactions including short puts, short stock and stock purchases on margin.
  • There is no threshold requirement for accounts engaging in spreads.
  • For accounts engaging in uncovered (naked) equity or index call writing a minimum account value of $5,000 must be maintained.
  • Stocks priced $5 and under are not eligible for credit towards margin requirements and are not credited to buying power.
  • Important: If your equity drops below the minimum required, or a call is issued for any other reason, you may be required to deposit additional funds by wire, check (sent by overnight courier), or a deposit made by other prompt method of payment.
Basic Requirements For Transactions 1
Transaction Requirement
Long Stock Transactions 50% of the purchase price upon initiating the position.
40% of the market value for maintenance.
100% of the security price for stocks priced $5.00 and under.
Short Stock Transactions 50% of the short value (maintenance is 40%) and $5/share requirement on Short Sales below $10/share.
Covered Call Writing Requires a long stock position equal to the amount of exercisable calls. On a single order combination transaction, the long stock position requirement is not offset by the proceeds of the call until after the transaction.
Equity Short Puts & Naked Calls 20% of the underlying market price + the premium - amount out of the money OR 10% of the underlying market price (or strike price for O-T-M puts) + the premium, whichever is greater.
Index Short Puts & Naked Calls 15% of the underlying market price + the premium - amount out of the money OR 10% of the underlying market price (or strike price for O-T-M puts) + the premium, whichever is greater.
Cash Secured Short Puts 100% of the exercisable value.
Short Straddles The greater of the short put or short call requirement, plus the current premium of the leg with the lower requirement.
Debit Spreads 100% of the debit amount upon initiating the transaction.
Credit Spreads 100% of the difference between the strike prices multiplied by the number of contracts, credit from the proceeds included.
Long Butterfly 100% of the debit amount upon initiating the transaction.
To open and maintain a portfolio margin account:
Minimum Requirements:
  • A minimum account value of $100,000 is required to be approved to use portfolio margin.
  • Three years of confirmed options trading experience.
  • Three months of recent documented trading history to be reviewed prior to approval.
  • Checked an investment objective of “Speculation” in your account application.
  • Approved for naked equity call writing / naked index put & call writing.
  • Important: If your equity drops below the minimum requirement your account may lose eligibility for portfolio margining. Positions would then be margined at Regulation T levels which may result in additional margin calls.
Basic Requirements for Portfolio Transactions
Level Equities,2 Equity Options, Narrow-Based Indices Broad-Based Indices
Exchange Minimums Up/down Moves of 15%
High Volatility Stocks 60% +
Up/down moves of 10%
House Aggressive Up/down Moves of 18%
High Volatility Stocks 60% +
Up/down moves of 16%
House Standard Up/down Moves of 22%
High Volatility Stocks 60% +
Up/down moves of 20%
House Increased Up/down Moves of 25%
High Volatility Stocks 60% +
Up/down moves of 25%
Portfolio Margin Requirement Examples 3
Compare the initial margin and portfolio margin requirements for trade strategies to see how portfolio margin could make a difference in your trading approach:

The table above is for illustrative purposes only. Additional criteria may apply to the calculation of margin requirements. The firm's requirements may be higher than those used in this example.

Note: In some circumstances, Portfolio Margin can result in a greater margin requirement than Reg T; for example, if your portfolio is overly concentrated or contains positions that have experienced significant historical volatility.

For more examples of portfolio margin, please see the comparative examples on the CBOE Web site.

How do I apply for portfolio margin?
Talk to a trading specialist on the optionsXpress trade desk at (888)-280-8020 to learn more. They will discuss your trading experience to see if you are qualified to apply. If qualified to apply, log in and navigate to your Profile page located under the Account tab and click on the Portfolio Margin Signup link located under Related Links. Complete a brief application, sign electronically, and submit. You will receive a response with the status of the application within 1-2 business days.

Trading Level Basic Definitions
  Minimum Trading Level
Trading Stocks / Bonds / Mutual Funds 0
Covered Call Writing / Short Stock Sales 1
Buying Calls and Puts / Covered Put Writing 2
Debit Spreads 3
Credit Spreads / Equity Put Writing 4
Naked Equity Call Writing / Naked Index Put & Call Writing 5

There are inherent risks in using margin. Increased leverage means increased risk. For more information about trading on margin and using portfolio margin, please read our "Portfolio Margin Risk Disclosure Agreement" and "Margin Disclosure Statement," available on our website or by calling 1.888.280.8020 or 1.312.629.5455.

Please see the disclosures page for additional information regarding this section.