Put Debit Spreads: A Powerful Strategy to Profitable Trades

When it comes to options trading, there are numerous strategies to choose from, and one popular choice is the put debit spread. This bearish trading strategy can be an effective way to generate profits in a declining market. In this article, we’ll demystify the put debit spread, explaining how it works, its advantages, and some tips to help you succeed. Whether you’re new to options trading or looking to expand your knowledge, this guide will help you understand and apply the put debit spread strategy in your trading endeavors.

What is a Put Debit Spread?

A put debit spread, also known as a bear put spread, is an options trading strategy where an investor simultaneously buys a put option and sells another put option with a lower strike price on the same underlying security and expiration date. By selling the lower-strike put, the investor offsets the cost of purchasing the higher-strike put, resulting in a net debit to enter the trade. This strategy is used when an investor has a bearish outlook on the market or a specific stock and aims to profit from a decline in the stock’s price.

How Does a Put Debit Spread Work?

To better understand how a put debit spread works, let’s take a look at an example:

Suppose you believe that stock XYZ, currently trading at $50, will decline in price over the next month. To capitalize on this prediction, you decide to use a put debit spread. You buy a put option with a strike price of $50 and sell a put option with a strike price of $45, both expiring in one month. The $50 put option costs you $3.00 per share, while the $45 put option generates a premium of $1.50 per share.

In this scenario, the net debit to enter the trade is $1.50 per share ($3.00 – $1.50), which represents your maximum potential loss. Your maximum potential profit is the difference between the two strike prices minus the net debit, or in this case, $3.50 per share ($5.00 – $1.50).

Advantages of a Put Debit Spread

There are several advantages to using a put debit spread strategy, including:

  1. Limited risk: The maximum loss is limited to the net debit paid to enter the trade.
  2. Lower cost: The premium received from selling the lower-strike put offsets the cost of buying the higher-strike put, making the trade less expensive than simply buying a put option outright.
  3. Profit potential in a bearish market: This strategy is designed to profit from a decline in the stock’s price.
  4. Defined profit potential: The maximum profit is known at the time of entering the trade.

Tips for Success

To maximize your chances of success with put debit spreads, consider the following tips:

  1. Choose the right market conditions: Put debit spreads work best in a bearish or neutral market.
  2. Select the right strike prices: The choice of strike prices can significantly impact your potential profit and risk.
  3. Use appropriate risk management: As with any trading strategy, risk management is crucial. Never risk more than you can afford to lose.

Choosing the Right Strike Prices

The strike prices you choose for your put debit spread can significantly impact the strategy’s risk and return profile. Generally, the closer the sold put’s strike price is to the current stock price, the higher the premium you’ll receive, which reduces the cost of the trade. However, it also means the stock price needs to fall more before you start to see profits.

Consider the previous example where stock XYZ was trading at $50. Instead of selling a put with a strike price of $45, suppose you sold a put with a strike price of $48. This put option might bring in a premium of $2.50 per share. Now, your net debit to enter the trade is just $0.50 per share ($3.00 – $2.50), which also represents your maximum loss. However, your maximum potential profit is now only $1.50 per share ($2.00 – $0.50), and the stock needs to fall below $48 before you start to profit, compared to $45 in the first scenario.

Managing Risk

One of the keys to successful trading is effectively managing risk, and this is especially important when dealing with options. Even though the put debit spread has a defined maximum loss (the net debit paid to enter the trade), it’s crucial to only risk what you can afford to lose. A common rule of thumb is to never risk more than 2% of your trading capital on a single trade.

Let’s say you have a trading account with $10,000. Following the 2% rule, you shouldn’t risk more than $200 on a single trade. If you’re considering a put debit spread where the net debit (and thus your maximum potential loss) is $1.50 per share, you could buy contracts representing up to 133 shares ($200 / $1.50).

When to Exit a Put Debit Spread

Knowing when to exit a trade is just as important as knowing when to enter. With a put debit spread, there are a few scenarios to consider:

  • If the stock price has fallen significantly and you’ve reached your maximum profit, you could consider exiting the trade early. Although holding until expiration would yield the same profit, exiting early frees up capital and reduces the risk of the stock price bouncing back.
  • If the stock price has moved against you and you’ve reached your maximum loss, you could hold the trade until expiration, hoping the stock price falls. However, if the outlook for the stock has changed (e.g., due to a positive earnings report), it might be prudent to exit the trade and cut your losses.
  • If the stock price hasn’t moved much, you might be sitting at a small profit or loss. As expiration approaches, consider the remaining profit potential versus the risk of holding the trade.


The put debit spread is a versatile strategy that offers a balance of risk and reward. Whether you’re a seasoned trader or just starting, understanding this strategy can add another tool to your trading toolbox. Remember, while the potential for profit exists, so does risk. Always take the time to understand the trade, manage your risk effectively, and have a clear plan for when to exit. Happy trading!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you profit on a put debit spread?

A put debit spread is a bearish strategy, meaning it profits when the underlying stock’s price falls. When you buy a put at a higher strike price and sell a put at a lower strike price, the maximum profit is the difference between the two strike prices minus the net debit paid. The profit is realized if the stock price is at or below the lower strike price at expiration.

Are put debit spreads safe?

“Safe” is a relative term in investing. Put debit spreads do have a defined risk, which is the amount you pay to enter the trade (the net debit). This means you can’t lose more than what you initially paid, which adds a degree of safety. However, like all investment strategies, put debit spreads carry risk, and it’s important to understand these risks before entering the trade.

How much can you lose on a put debit spread?

The maximum loss on a put debit spread is limited to the net debit paid to enter the position. This is the cost of the put you buy minus the premium you receive for the put you sell. You’ll experience this maximum loss if the stock price is above the higher strike price at expiration.

What is the downside of a debit spread?

The main downside of a debit spread is that your profit potential is capped. No matter how much the stock price falls (for a put debit spread), your profit can’t exceed the difference between the strike prices minus the net debit. Also, the stock must move in your favor before you can make a profit, unlike some other strategies that profit from time decay or volatility.

What is the benefit of put debit spread?

A put debit spread can profit from a drop in the underlying stock’s price with a defined risk and lower cost than buying a put outright. This makes it a cost-effective way to take a bearish position. Also, the sale of the lower-strike put helps offset the cost and the effects of time decay.

What happens if a put debit spread expires in the money?

If both put options of a debit spread are in the money at expiration, the spread would be at its maximum value, equal to the difference between the strike prices. You would realize your maximum profit, which is this difference minus the net debit paid to enter the trade.

What is the max profit on a debit spread?

The maximum profit on a debit spread is the difference between the strike prices minus the net debit paid to establish the spread.

What is an example of a put debit spread?

Suppose stock XYZ is trading at $50. You could create a put debit spread by buying a put option with a strike price of $50 for $4 and selling a put option with a strike price of $45 for $1. Your net debit (and maximum loss) is $3 per share. If XYZ falls below $45 at expiration, your spread is worth $5 per share, and your profit is $2 per share ($5 spread value minus $3 net debit).

Can you lose infinite money on puts?

No, when buying put options or using them in a debit spread, your loss is limited to what you paid for the option or spread. The risk of infinite loss comes into play when you sell naked calls, a different strategy altogether.

Can you lose infinite money buying puts?

No, the maximum you can lose when buying puts is the premium you paid for them. The stock price can’t fall below zero, so your risk is capped.

Is put debit spread bullish?

No, a put debit spread is bearish. It’s designed to profit from a fall in the underlying stock’s price.

Do debit spreads decay?

Yes, like all options, the options in a debit spread are subject to time decay. However, because you’re both buying and selling options, the effects of time decay on the spread can be somewhat offset.

When should I buy debit spread?

A put debit spread is a good strategy to consider when you expect a stock to fall in price, but you want to limit your risk and reduce the cost of taking this position compared to buying a put outright.

What margin is required for a debit spread?

Because a debit spread involves simultaneously buying and selling options, it typically doesn’t require a margin account. The maximum loss is the net debit paid, so you only need enough cash in your account to cover this amount. However, brokerages can have different rules, so it’s always a good idea to check with your broker.

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