Publicly traded companies can issue stock warrants and stock options to attract investors and raise capital. A warrant gives an investor the right to buy a stock at a set price by a specific date. A stock option conveys the right to buy or sell a stock at a certain price by a predetermined date. Though they sound similar, they work differently and serve different purposes. Knowing how to compare warrants and options can help when deciding which one to invest in. Investing in derivatives can be tricky, which is why it’s wise to work with a financial advisor on such trades.
What Is a Stock Warrant?
A stock warrant gives an investor the right to buy shares of a certain stock at a set price on a set date. Companies can issue stock warrants directly to investors to raise capital. When a warrant is issued, it spells out the price at which the stock can be purchased and the offer’s expiration date. If an investor decides to purchase stock through a warrant, the company collects the money.
Warrants don’t require investors to purchase stock; it’s optional. And they don’t automatically assign an investor ownership over shares of stock. But again, if the investor chooses to do so, then they can buy the stock at the price specified by the warrant. This means that if the stock is trading higher, the investor could purchase shares in the company at a discount.
There are two types of stock warrants companies can issue. A put warrant allows an investor to sell stocks back to the company at a future date and at a predetermined price. A call warrant allows an investor to purchase stocks at a future date and at a preset price.
What Is a Stock Option?
A stock option is a contract that gives an investor the right to buy or sell shares of an underlying asset at a set price by a certain date. The price at which an option is exercised is its strike price. Options have an expiration date by which they must be exercised; otherwise, the investor who purchased the contract loses their right to buy or sells.
Similar to stock warrants, options don’t require the investor to exercise them. And just because you own an option doesn’t mean you automatically own the underlying asset. There are two broad categories of options to choose from: call or put.
Call options allow you to buy shares of an underlying stock at a set strike price. You might choose to invest in call options if you think that the underlying stock’s price will rise. So, for example, you might buy a call option at $50 in the hopes that the stock’s price will rise to $100 before the expiration date so you can buy at a discount and double your money.
Put options allow you to sell shares of stock at a set strike price. Buying put options could make sense if you expect the underlying stock’s price to decrease. So, going back to the previous example you might by a put option for a stock at $50 per share in the hopes that the price drops to $25. You could then exercise the option to sell at the higher $50 per share price.
Warrants vs. Options: What’s the Difference?
There are several things that set stock warrants and options apart, starting with how they’re made available to investors. With warrants, the company can issue them directly to investors. Stock options, on the other hand, can trade on an exchange like shares of stock. If an investor purchases stock through a warrant, the proceeds go to the company. When an investor exercises an option, the money is being traded to another investor.
That’s another key difference since with warrants, companies can benefit directly whereas with options, the benefits go to the investors involved in the transaction.
Warrants and options can also be issued at different strike prices and have different expiration dates. With a warrant, for instance, a company may allow investors a decade or more in which to decide whether to purchase shares. Options, on the other hand, tend to be shorter-term in nature, with expiration dates that may be a few days to a few months in the future.
Are Warrants or Options Better for Investors?
When comparing warrants vs. options, the benefits of one don’t automatically cancel out the benefits of the other. Whether one proves to be a better fit for your portfolio can depend on your investment strategy, goals, risk tolerance and time horizon for investing.
If you’re looking for a longer-term play, then stock warrants could be a good choice. Again, companies can allow investors years to take advantage of a warrant. This can allow you time to gauge how market movements may affect stock pricing so you can decide when the best time to exercise a call or put warrant might be.
Options, on the other hand, tend to be better suited to active day traders who are looking for opportunities to generate quick profits. But options trading can be risky, as there are no guarantees about which way an underlying security’s price will move.
Between the two, options tend to be more accessible for investors since they trade on an exchange. For instance, you could open an online brokerage account and start trading options almost immediately. Warrants, on the other hand, are sold over the counter and may be harder to come by. But they could yield higher capital gains, depending on how they’re priced.
You could split the difference in your investment portfolio and allocate money to warrants and options. Doing so could help to spread out risk while still creating opportunities to purchase stocks at a discount or sell them above market price.
The Bottom Line
Warrants and options can be used to diversify your portfolio beyond owning bonds and individual shares of stock or alternative investments like precious metals or artwork. Companies can use warrants to raise capital while investors can use them, as well as options, to reap profits. Both warrants and options can be structured for either selling or buying (but not both). Knowing the risks and rewards involved is important when deciding whether to invest in either one.
Tips for Investing
- Consider talking to a financial advisor about the pros and cons of warrants vs. options and how to invest in either one. If you don’t have a financial advisor, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help you connect with professional advisors locally. It takes just a few minutes to get your customized recommendations online. If you’re ready, get started now.
- Buying stock warrants or options is something you can do through an online broker. But it’s important to note that not all brokers offer warrants or options to trade. So if you’re interested in opening a brokerage account online, take time to compare the range of investments offered. Also, look at the fees you may pay to invest in warrants or options through the platform.
- When weighing whether a warrant or option is a good play, there are different indicators you may use. For instance, technical indicators can help with analyzing trends and market movements. They may be useful if you’re evaluating whether to exercise an options contract. Fundamentals, on the other hand, can provide insight into a company’s financial health. If you’re investing in warrants as a buy-and-hold investor, then fundamental analysis could help with deciding whether to purchase the underlying shares or not.
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