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Key Differences between Options and Swaps


The trade in Derivatives has grown ever since it emerged as an organized sector of modern finance in the 1970s globally and the early 2000s in India. Most variations of Derivatives can be traced back much further to the ancient and medieval economy, such as harvest speculations in ancient Greece and the Dojima Rice Exchange in 18th century Japan. Options and Swaps represent two of the more common and popular forms of Derivatives, constituting a significant part of the trade in Derivatives. As the trade in Derivatives witnesses an ever-increasing rapid pace of growth, it is essential for investors to be well-informed about the variety of Derivatives and their advantages and disadvantages.

The Difference between Options and Swaps

The difference between Options and Swaps is as follows:

  • Options refer to contracts that give the buyer the right to buy or sell an underlying asset but not the legal obligation. On the other hand, Swaps refer to legally binding contracts in which the parties agree to exchange either revenue streams from two different sources or revenue streams and their source, i.e., the underlying assets’ interests that form the revenue streams.

  • Options involve the trade in the actual securities, while Swaps mainly involve the exchange of revenue streams.

  • The value of Options is derived from underlying assets. Swaps, on the other hand, do not derive their value from any underlying assets.

  • The purchase and signing of Options contracts require the payment of a premium. Swaps, on the other hand, require no payment during the initial signing of the contract.

  • Options are traded on both regulated exchange or Over Counter (OTC) markets. Swaps, however, are traded only on Over-the-Counter (OTC) markets.

  • The loss potential in Options contracts is limited due to their nature. Swaps, on the other hand, have unlimited loss potential, making them risker to trade.

  • Options have a long history, with their earliest emergence in ancient Greece for speculation on crop harvests. More recently, it has been associated with the illegal brokerage firms known as bucket shops, made famous by American trader and bookie Jessie Livermore. Swaps, on the other hand, are the newest variation of Derivatives. Swaps first emerged in the 1980s when World Bank exchanged US dollars with IBM’s stock of Swiss Francs and German Marks. Swaps thus have come to be associated with company tax evasion and circumvention of foreign exchange taxes and regulations.

  • Options trade has existed in unorganized trading sector from before modern times. Organized Options trade began in 2001 after the formation of the National Stock Exchange. Swaps, however, are not used in India.


While Swaps and Options have several differences, they’re also often combined to form Swaptions. Swaptions are contracts that give the buyer the right to enter into an Options contract at a future time but not the legal obligation to do so. Swaptions are of three types:

  • Payer Swaptions where the purchaser gains the right to enter a Swaps contract where they pay the fixed rate side and receive the floating rate side, but they are not legally obligated to do so.

  • Receiver Swaptions refer to contracts where the purchaser gains the right to enter a Swaps contract where they pay the floating rate and receive the fixed rate but are not legally obligated to do so.

  • Straddle Swaptions refer to contracts where the purchaser buys both the floating and fixed-rate side of a Swap.


Swaps and Options have a variety of differences that may attract them to different types of traders. However, more astute traders may use them in combinations to reap the benefits from the segment.


ICICI Securities Ltd. ( I-Sec). Registered office of I-Sec is at ICICI Securities Ltd. - ICICI Centre, H. T. Parekh Marg, Churchgate, Mumbai - 400020, India, Tel No : 022 - 2288 2460, 022 - 2288 2470. The contents herein above shall not be considered as an invitation or persuasion to trade or invest.  I-Sec and affiliates accept no liabilities for any loss or damage of any kind arising out of any actions taken in reliance thereon. The contents herein above are solely for informational purpose and may not be used or considered as an offer document or solicitation of offer to buy or sell or subscribe for securities or other financial instruments or any other product. Investments in securities market are subject to market risks, read all the related documents carefully before investing. The contents herein mentioned are solely for informational and educational purpose.

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