Iron Butterfly

Updated on January 4, 2024
Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Edited byAshish Kumar Srivastav
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Iron Butterfly Definition

An iron butterfly is a limited risk strategy involving four option contracts to earn a limited profit if prices move within the selected range. This options trading strategy is suitable for a less volatile market and keeps traders’ investments stable.

Traders use this strategy when they anticipate little change in the underlying asset price until the option contracts’ expiry. Iron butterfly consists of four options trades – a bear call spread, a bull put spread, a short call, and a short put options with the same expiry date. Seasoned investors utilize iron butterfly to limit their unlimited risk while making a limited profit. Iron fly is another name for this strategy.

Key Takeaways

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How Does Iron Butterfly Option Strategy Work?

Iron Butterfly

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How To Apply Iron Butterfly Strategy

Iron butterfly is an advanced options trading strategy that can yield higher profits if the underlying assetUnderlying AssetUnderlying assets are the actual financial assets on which the financial derivatives rely. Thus, any change in the value of a derivative reflects the price fluctuation of its underlying asset. Such assets comprise stocks, commodities, market indices, bonds, currencies and interest rates.read more price equals the middle strike value at expiration. An investor can apply the tactic in the following steps:

  1. Identify a target price for the underlying asset at a strike price.
  2. Sell call and buy options at the stock’s current price by selling at the at-the-money price. The strike price becomes the target or the middle strike price.  
  3. Buy out-of-the-moneyOut-of-the-money”Out of the money” is the term used in options trading & can be described as an option contract that has no intrinsic value if exercised today. In simple terms, such options trade below the value of an underlying asset and therefore, only have time value.read more (OTM) put option that should be lower than the target price. It becomes the lower strike price. Buying the OTM put increases a trader’s risk.
  4. Buy out-of-the-money (OTM) call option higher than the target price. It becomes the higher strike price. Buying the OTM call increases a trader’s risk.
  5. OTM purchases here are giving a cushion against unlimited losses.


Example #1

The strategy creates an opportunity wherein traders can reap smaller limited profits or incur lower maximum potential losses. The calculation of each scenario goes as follows:

Smaller Maximum Profit or Net Credit = Call Option Sold + Put Option Sold – Put Option Purchased – Call Option Purchased

Lower Maximum Loss Possible = Spread – Net Credit

Let us consider that the stock of Clove Inc. is trading at $50 in May 2021. A trader named Mark is interested in making some profit out of it using the iron butterfly strategy.

Mark sells a put option at the middle strike price of $50 (target price) at a premium of $5. He also sells a call option at the same strike price. He pays a premium of $4.

He then decides to purchase a put option at a lower strike price of $40 at the premium of $1.50.

Next, he purchases a call option at a higher strike price of $60 by paying $1.75. The cushioning against the unlimited risk will come through these two purchases.

  • Smaller Maximum Profit or Net Credit = $5 + $4 – $1.75 – $1.50 = $8.75
  • The spread is $10, as $60 – $50 = $50 – $40, i.e. 10.
  • Lower Maximum Loss Possible = $10 – $8.75 = $1.25

The breakeven points that talk about risk making positions in an iron butterfly strategy are as follows –

  • Target Price + Net Credit = $50 + $8.75 = $58.75
  • Target Price – Net Credit = $50 – $8.75 = $41.25

One will start incurring a heavy loss if the stock price rises to and beyond $ 58.75. Similarly, one would begin incurring a heavy loss if the stock price goes down to $41.25 and beyond.

As long as the price stays in the above range or at the target price, one would profit.

Example #2

Alice is a seasoned iron fly investor. She decides to buy put and call options. First and foremost, she starts by identifying the at-the-moneyAt-the-moneyATM refers to a situation in which the option holder's exercise of the option results in no loss or gain since the exercise price or strike price is equal to the current spot price of the underlying security. read more target price. Two more OTM strike prices follow next. They all share the same expiry. She then buys put and call options. The price fluctuates beyond her safety net but soon enough comes back due to less volatility bringing her profit.

Iron Butterfly vs Iron Condor 

Both iron butterfly and iron condor are options trading strategies and have their own set of pros and cons. 

The iron butterfly strategy uses four options with three strike prices for low risk and limited-profit chances. The iron condorIron CondorIron Condor is a derivative strategy designed to earn profit in a limited loss and a limited profit basis. It consists of four options – long call, short call, long put and a short put, all with the same expiration date, however, are of different strike prices.read more also utilizes four options available to traders with two put spreads and two call spreads but at four different strike prices.

The stock price movement stops and closes at the target strike price, in such a case, the returns from the iron butterfly technique are usually higher.

Let us have a look at the differences between the two strategies.

Iron ButterflyIron Condor
It has an at-the-money target strike price.It usually has a slightly out-of-the-money target stick price.
Three strike prices.Four strike prices.
Narrow structure.Broader structure.
Maintains better reward to risk ratio.More likely to gain profits.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is an Iron Butterfly Strategy?

An iron butterfly strategy is adopted to hedge against potential risk to achieve a profit. By adopting this strategy, traders can select three strike prices within a specific level. They make profits if the stock prices fall within the range or limit their losses when they go beyond.

How to Adjust Iron Butterfly?

Considering the target price, traders can adjust their put and call spreads easily using their preferred tools. It will help them know the cost they will gain or lose due to price fluctuations.

Is Iron Butterfly a Good Strategy?

With the narrow structure of the pattern, one assesses the risk beforehand. Traders may have to bear some losses while expecting considerable profits. It is a good strategy in the sense of providing hedging to limit the losses.

This has been a guide to What is Iron Butterfly & its Definition. Here we discuss how does it work and how to apply along with examples. You may also have a look at the following articles to learn more –

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