Binary options are based on a simple yes or no proposition: Will an underlying asset be above a certain price at a certain time? Traders place trades based on whether they believe the answer is yes or no, making it one of the simplest financial assets to trade. This simplicity has resulted in broad appeal amongst traders and newcomers to the financial markets. As simple as it may seem, traders should fully understand how binary options work, what markets and time frames they can trade with binary options, advantages and disadvantages of these products, and which companies are legally authorized to provide binary options to U.S. residents.

Binary options traded outside the U.S. are typically structured differently than binaries available on U.S. exchanges. When considering speculating or hedging, binary options are an alternative, but only if the trader fully understands the two potential outcomes of these exotic options.

Binary options provide a way to trade markets with capped risk and capped profit potential, based on a 'yes' or 'no' proposition.

For example: Will the price of gold be above $1,250 at 1:30 p.m. today?

If you believe it will be, you buy the binary option. If think gold will be below $1,250 at 1:30 p.m., then you sell this binary option.

The price of a binary option is always between $0 and $100, and just like other financial markets, there is a bid and ask price.

The above binary may be trading at $42.50 (bid) and $44.50 (offer) at 1 p.m. If you buy the binary option right then you will pay $44.50, if you decide to sell right then you'll sell at $42.50.

Let's assume you decide to buy at $44.50. If at 1:30 p.m. the the price of gold is above $1,250, your option expires and it becomes worth $100. You make a profit of $100 - $44.50 = $55.50 (less fees). This is called being in the money.

But if the price of gold is below $1,250 at 1:30 p.m., the option expires at $0. Therefore you lose the $44.50 invested. This called out of the money.

The bid and offer fluctuate until the option expires. You can close your position at any time before expiry to lock in a profit or a reduce a loss (compared to letting it expire out of the money).