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What is an Up and Out Option?

Options trading allows for creative strategies but can get complicated with exotic variants like barrier options. One such instrument is the up-and-out option – handy yet tricky to deploy optimally. Before using them as speculations or hedges, it’s vital to understand the mechanics behind these path-dependent contracts. This article will define an up-and-out option, its payoff structure, applicability for different market views, and key pointers to consider when trading or investing with them. 

Overview of up-and-out option 

An up-and-out option is a type of agreement between two people. It allows one person to buy or sell an asset at a specific price, but only if its value exceeds a specific level before a deadline.

What is a barrier option?

A barrier option has a trigger price set for the underlying asset. When the asset’s market price crosses this trigger, the option is either activated (knocked in) or extinguished (knocked out), depending on the type of barrier option.

The two types of barrier options are:

1. Knock-in option: This option exists only when the asset price crosses the specified barrier. For example, an up-and-in call option means the holder can buy the asset at the agreed strike price if its market price rises above the trigger level.

2. Knock-out option: This option expires or vanishes when the asset price crosses the set barrier level. An up-and-out put option would terminate if the asset price exceeds the predetermined trigger, preventing the holder from selling at the strike price.

Understanding up barriers

Up-barrier options have trigger levels above the underlying asset’s current trading price. Two major types are:

1. Up and in: The option activates when the asset price rises above the trigger level.

2. Up and out: The option expires worthless if the asset price exceeds the setup barrier.

An easy way to remember for up barriers is to cross the trigger knocks-in call options and knocks-out put options.

Key features of an up-and-out option

An up-and-out option has the following specifications:

  • Underlying asset: The securities or commodity the traders agree to exchange. It could be stocks, currencies, gold, etc. 
  • Strike price: The “strike price” is a pre-agreed price at which the buyers can purchase an asset or a seller can sell an asset based on an options contract.
  • Barrier price: The predetermined trigger level set above the market price.
  • Expiry date: The last date up to which the option contract is valid. 
  • Premium: The upfront fee paid by the option holder for the rights granted by the contract.

How does an up-and-out option work?

An up-and-out option contract gives both parties – the buyer and seller of the option – specific rights regarding buying or selling the underlying asset. Here is an overview:

1. The seller’s perspective

By writing an up-and-out put option, the seller grants the buyer the right to sell the asset at the agreed strike price anytime before expiration, provided its market price stays below the barrier throughout the tenure. 

If the asset price rises above the barrier during this period, the put option is knocked out and expires worthlessly. The seller gets to keep the premium as a profit regardless of whether the option is exercised. Their obligation to buy the asset from the holder at the strike price is terminated.

2. The buyer’s perspective  

By purchasing an up-and-out put option, the buyer obtains the right to sell the underlying to the writer at the strike price as long as its market price remains below the up barrier set in the contract. 

If the asset price exceeds the barrier before expiry, the put option ceases to exist. The buyer loses the premium paid but avoids having to sell the asset below market value.

When does the up-and-out option make sense?

There are two scenarios where trading an up-and-out barrier option can be helpful:

1. Hedging downside risk

Investors often buy up and output options as a hedge when expecting prices to rise moderately. These puts safeguard against significant unexpected declines. 

If the price drops a point below the strike price before expiration, the investor can sell at the agreed strike rate to limit losses. 

However, if the asset price rises sharply above the barrier, the puts expire worthless, but the investor gains from the price appreciation.

2. Speculating on mild upside 

Traders sometimes sell out-of-the-money up-and-out-call options to speculate if they expect mild gains from the current price. 

If the asset price exceeds the up barrier, the sold calls expire, and the seller pockets the premium as profit. If not, the calls stay active. 

The seller retains the upside if gains are within the strike price or gives up some profit by letting the buyer exercise the call option.

Using an example to understand payoffs

Let’s break down the up-and-out option payoffs numerically using an example:  

Kamal buys a 3-month up-and-out put on ABC Ltd. shares for a premium of ₹15  per share, with a strike price of ₹550 and a barrier of ₹650. ABC is trading at around ₹575 currently. 

If ABC trades below the strike price of ₹550 at expiration, Kamal can exercise his right to sell it at ₹550 and make a profit.

If ABC trades between ₹550 and ₹650, Kamal avoids selling below market rates but loses only the premium paid.  

If ABC exceeds ₹650 anytime during the 3 months, the put option ceases to exist. By paying ₹15 per share, Kamal has limited the downside if ABC crashes below ₹550.

Things to note about an up and out option

Here are some key pointers about this exotic barrier option:

1. An out-of-the-money call option costs more than a vanilla call because it is more likely to become profitable. This is due to a potential barrier being crossed.

2. An at-the-money (ATM) put option with an up-and-out barrier can be cheaper than an equivalent vanilla put. ATM puts have a lower risk of reaching the barrier.  

3. A lower barrier increases the chances of knocking out, reducing the put option value. A higher barrier has the opposite impact of increasing the likelihood the call option survives.

4. During high volatility, the probability and timing of reaching the barrier becomes more unpredictable. This affects premium pricing.

Depending on one’s market outlook and risk appetite, the up-and-out barrier option can be traded strategically as part of an options spread. Just buying calls or puts alone is usually riskier than using a combination trade with protecting stops.

Summing up the key takeaways

The up-and-out call and up-and-out barrier options enable traders to craft positions with pre-defined risk management in volatile markets. Some concluding points for understanding these path-dependent options:

  • Barrier options define trigger levels crossing which kills or activates the option depending on knock-out or knock-in type.  
  • To overcome barriers, exceeding the trigger extinguishes put options but activates call options.
  • Buyers use up and outputs to hedge the downside by pre-fixing a selling price, capping losses if unexpected news spikes prices above the set barrier  
  • Sellers use these as a bet on constrained upside, expecting moderate gains based on technical analysis
  • The barrier levels, premium paid/received, and final direction of asset price movement determine the P&L scenarios experienced by both option contract parties.


Up-and-out barrier options are an investment tool that can help traders manage their risks when the market is unpredictable. They allow traders to limit their potential profits and losses by making it easier to make informed decisions. Additionally, they are affordable and offer leverage, which can help create effective hedging strategies. When used correctly, these options can give both experienced and new traders an advantage in the market.


What is the critical difference between a knock-in and knock-out barrier option?

A knock-in option activates only when the asset price crosses the predetermined barrier level, while a knock-out option expires if this trigger price is breached before expiry.

How does buying an up-and-out put option help an investor?

Purchasing an up-and-out put acts as downside protection for an investor since it gives the right to sell at the agreed strike price if the asset falls while limiting losses to the premium amount paid if it rises sharply above the barrier.

Can an up-and-out call option seller make unlimited profits?

No, profits are capped between the strike price and the barrier level. Above the barrier, the sold call expires worthless, allowing no further profits. However, the collected premium is retained.

What happens to an up-and-out barrier option if the trigger price is never reached?

If an asset price stays below the knock-out barrier throughout, the put option remains active, allowing the buyer the right to sell at the strike, while the call option seller’s obligation to sell at the strike price stays intact.

How does high volatility impact the valuation of an up-and-out option?

Higher volatility increases the likelihood of the asset price crossing the trigger barrier, reducing the value of puts and increasing the price of calls linked to an up-and-out barrier option.

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