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Mastercard: A Covered Call For Nervous Bulls In The ‘Just Charge It’ Stock

By Tezcan Gecgil/ Stock MarketsJun 01, 2022 04:23PM ET
Mastercard: A Covered Call For Nervous Bulls In The ‘Just Charge It’ Stock
By Tezcan Gecgil/   |  Jun 01, 2022 04:23PM ET
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  • Mastercard shares flat in 2022
  • Recovery in cross-border travel offsetting revenue loss from war in Ukraine
  • Long-term investors could consider buying the dip, especially around $350
  • Looking for more top-rated stock ideas to add to your portfolio? Members of InvestingPro+ get exclusive access to our research tools, data, and pre-selected screeners. Learn More »

Shareholders of the transaction and payment services giant, Mastercard (NYSE:MA) have seen the value of their investment fall by 0.2% over the past 12 months and the shares have been practically flat since the start of the year, returning just 0.2%.

MA Weekly
MA Weekly

By comparison, Dow Jones Financial Services Index fell 9.7% so far this year and the S&P 500 Index is currently down 12.7% in 2022.

Shares of Mastercard’s biggest rival, Visa (NYSE:V), have declined 1.4% since January, while American Express (NYSE:AXP) stock is up 3.7% YTD.

On Feb. 2, shares in the global payment processor went over $399 to hit a 52-week high. However, by Mar. 8, shares have plunged to $305, hitting a 52-week low in just over a month. The stock’s 52-week range has been $305.61-$399.92, while the market capitalization currently stands at $349.4 billion.

International card use contributes to Mastercard’s robust revenues so increased international travel in the post-pandemic world is likely to lead to stronger business results for the payments giant.

Recent Metrics

Mastercard released Q1 financials on Apr. 28. Net revenue grew 24% year-over-year to $5.2 billion. Gross dollar volume soared 17% to $1.9 trillion. Adjusted earnings per diluted share jumped 59% YoY to $2.76, compared with $1.74 in the same period last year.

On the results, CEO Michael Miebach said:

Even in the context of this challenging geopolitical environment, we’re off to a strong start in 2022.… As of March, cross-border travel is above 2019 levels for the first time since the pandemic began, and ahead of our expectations.”

Prior to the release of Q1 results, MA stock was changing hands around $375.

What To Expect From Mastercard Stock

Among 40 analysts polled via, MA stock has an "outperform" rating. Wall Street has a 12-month median price target of $424.67 for the stock, implying an increase of more than 18% from the current price. The 12-month price range currently stands between $480 and $105.

Consensus Estimates of Analysts Polled By
Consensus Estimates of Analysts Polled By


However, according to a number of valuation models, such as P/E or P/S multiples or terminal values, the average fair value for Mastercard stock on InvestingPro stands at $351.35.

Valuation Models by InvestingPro.
Valuation Models by InvestingPro.

Source: InvestingPro

In other words, fundamental valuations suggest shares could decline by around 2%.

At present, MA’s P/E, P/B and P/S ratios are 36.7x, 49.5x and 17.5x. Comparable metrics for peers stand at 35.3x, 8.0x and 5.4x. These metrics reveal that MA stock may be slightly overvalued at the current stock price.

Our expectation is for Mastercard shares to trade in a wide range, between $340 and $380, to build a base in the coming weeks. Afterwards, MA shares could potentially start a new leg up.

Adding MA Stock To Portfolios

Mastercard bulls who believe the decline in the stock is likely to come to an end could consider investing now. Their target price would be $424.67, as per the target provided by analysts.

Although investors might want to buy MA stock for their long-term portfolios, they could also be nervous about further volatility in the coming weeks. Therefore, some might prefer to put together a "poor man’s covered call" on the stock.

So, today we introduce a diagonal debit spread on Mastercard by using LEAPS options, where both the profit potential and the risk are limited.

Investors who are new to the strategy might want to revisit our previous posts on LEAPS options first before reading further.

Most option strategies are not suitable for all retail investors. Therefore, the following discussion on MA stock is offered for educational purposes and not as an actual strategy to be followed by the average retail investor.

Diagonal Debit Spread On MA Stock

Price at time of writing: $359.60

In such a poor man’s covered call, a trader first buys a longer term call with a lower strike price. At the same time, the trader sells a shorter term call with a higher strike price, creating a long diagonal spread.

Thus, the call options for the underlying stock have different strikes and different expiration dates. The trader goes long one option and shorts the other.

Most traders opting for this type of strategy would be mildly bullish on the underlying security. Instead of buying 100 shares of MA, the trader would purchase a deep in the money LEAPS call option, where that LEAPS call acts as a “surrogate” for owning the stock.

For the first leg of this strategy, the trader might buy a deep in the money (ITM) LEAPS call, like the MA Jan. 19, 2024, 290-strike call option. This option is currently offered at $103.40. It would cost the trader $10,340 to own this call option, which expires in about a year and half, instead of $35,960 to buy the 100 shares outright.

The delta of this option is close to 80. Delta shows the amount an option’s price is expected to move based on a $1 change in the underlying security.

Based on a delta of 80, if MA stock goes up $1 to $360.60, the current option price would be expected to increase by approximately 80 cents. However, the actual change might be slightly more or less depending on several other factors that are beyond the scope of this article.

For the second leg of this strategy, the trader sells a slightly out of the money (OTM) short-term call, like the MA June 17 365-strike call option. This option’s current premium is $7.25. The option seller would receive $725, excluding trading commissions.

There are two expiration dates in the strategy, making it quite difficult to give an exact formula for a break-even point. Different brokers might offer “profit-and-loss calculators” for such a trade setup.

Maximum Profit Potential

The maximum potential is realized if the stock price is equal to the strike price of the short call on its expiration date. So the trader wants the MA stock price to remain as close to the strike price of the short option (i.e., $365) as possible at expiration on June 17, without going above it.

Here, the maximum return, in theory, would be about $1,114 at a price of $365 at expiry, excluding trading commissions and costs. (We arrived at this value using an options profit-and-loss calculator). Without the use of such a calculator, we could also arrive at an approximate dollar value. Let’s take a look:

The option seller (i.e., the trader) received $725 for the sold option. Meanwhile, the underlying Mastercard stock increased from $359.60 to $365, a difference of $5.40 per share, or $540 for 100 shares.

Because the delta of the long LEAPS option is taken as 80, the value of the long option will, in theory, increase by $540 X 0.8 = $432

However, in practice, it might be more or less than this value. There is, for example, the element of time decay that would decrease the price of the long option. Meanwhile, changes in volatility could increase or decrease the option price as well.

The total of $432 and $725 comes to $1,157. Although it is not the same as $1,114, we can regard it as an acceptable approximate value.

Understandably, if the strike price of our long option had been different (i.e., not $290), its delta would have been different, too. Then, we would need to use that delta value to arrive at the approximate final profit or loss value.

Here, by not investing $35,960 initially in 100 shares of Mastercard, the trader’s potential return is leveraged.

Ideally, the trader hopes the short MA call will expire out of the money, or worthless. Then, the trader can sell one call after the other, until the long Mastercard LEAPS call expires in close to two years.


The current market makes it harder than ever to make the right decisions. Think about the challenges:

  • Inflation

  • Geopolitical turmoil

  • Disruptive technologies

  • Interest rate hikes

To handle them, you need good data, effective tools to sort through the data, and insights into what it all means. You need to take emotion out of investing and focus on the fundamentals.

For that, there’s InvestingPro+, with all the professional data and tools you need to make better investing decisions. Learn More »

Mastercard: A Covered Call For Nervous Bulls In The ‘Just Charge It’ Stock

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Mastercard: A Covered Call For Nervous Bulls In The ‘Just Charge It’ Stock

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Ahmed Gamal
Ahmed Gamal Jun 06, 2022 12:42PM ET
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Mohd Izhar Muslim Jun 02, 2022 3:10AM ET
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