Classic (Dated) Futures vs. Perpetual Futures

May 3, 2024

Futures contracts play a pivotal role in the trading world, especially in the rapidly evolving landscape of cryptocurrency trading. There are two main types of futures contracts that crypto traders can utilise: classic (dated) futures and perpetual futures. Understanding the differences between these two types is crucial for anyone involved in the dynamic world of crypto trading.

Dated futures contracts, often referred to as dated futures, have a specific expiration date and are typically used for hedging or speculating on the future price of an asset, including cryptocurrencies. 

On the other hand, perpetual futures, which are particularly popular in the crypto sphere, do not have a fixed expiration date, offering traders a different level of flexibility in managing their positions.

Each of these contract types offers unique benefits and challenges, especially in the context of crypto trading, where price volatility is often high. Understanding how each contract operates can help traders navigate the complexities of crypto markets more effectively.

 Definition of Classic (Dated) Futures Contracts

Classic, or dated, futures contracts are standardised financial agreements that obligate two parties to buy or sell an asset at a predetermined price on a specified future date. These contracts are typically traded on regulated exchanges and cover a wide range of underlying assets, including commodities, stocks, and cryptocurrencies.

How Classic Futures Are Typically Structured

Dated futures contracts have a set expiration date, which means they come with a defined lifespan. Traders agree to the terms of the contract, which include the quantity of the asset, the price, and the expiration date. As the expiration date approaches, the price of the contract usually converges with the spot price of the underlying asset, influenced by factors such as interest rates, storage costs, and market demand. This structure allows traders to hedge against future price movements or speculate on asset prices.

Classic futures contracts play a crucial role in the financial world. They are widely used for hedging, allowing businesses and investors to protect themselves against adverse price movements. For example, a farmer might use futures contracts to lock in a selling price for their crops, while an airline might use them to secure fuel prices. 

Additionally, traders use dated futures for speculation, aiming to profit from price changes. These contracts facilitate price discovery and liquidity in various markets, contributing to the overall efficiency of the financial system.

Definition of Perpetual Futures Contracts

Perpetual futures contracts are a type of derivative that allows traders to speculate on the future price of an asset without a set expiration date. Unlike classic futures, perpetual futures do not have a fixed term, which means traders can hold their positions for as long as they wish. These contracts are especially popular in the cryptocurrency markets, where they offer continuous trading opportunities.

How Perpetual Futures Differ from Classic Futures

The key difference between perpetual and dated futures lies in their expiration dates. While classic futures have a specific date at which they must be settled, perpetual futures do not, offering traders the flexibility to maintain their positions indefinitely. 

Additionally, perpetual futures typically use a funding rate mechanism, which adjusts periodically to ensure that the contract price aligns with the underlying spot price. This funding rate incentivises traders to take positions that bring the contract price back in line with the spot price.

Perpetual futures have found a significant niche in the trading world, particularly in the cryptocurrency space. Their flexible nature allows traders to capitalise on short-term market movements without worrying about contract expiration. This feature is beneficial in highly volatile markets, where timing is critical. Perpetual futures also facilitate leveraged trading, enabling traders to amplify their positions and potentially increase their returns. These contracts offer a dynamic trading environment and cater to a wide range of trading strategies, making them a valuable tool for crypto traders and speculators.

Key Differences Between Dated and Perpetual Futures


  • Dated futures contracts have set expiration dates. This means traders have a limited time frame to manage their positions and must settle or roll over their contracts before the expiry date. The fixed expiration date helps provide clarity on when the contract must be concluded.

  • Perpetual futures contracts, on the other hand, do not have fixed expiration dates. Traders can hold their positions indefinitely, providing greater flexibility in reacting to market conditions. This open-ended nature of perpetual futures aligns well with the continuous nature of cryptocurrency trading.

Funding Mechanism

  • Classic futures do not incorporate a funding rate mechanism. The contract price is influenced primarily by the spot price of the underlying asset, along with other factors like interest rates and storage costs. This traditional pricing approach is straightforward but lacks a dynamic adjustment mechanism.

  • Perpetual futures use a funding rate mechanism to align the contract price with the underlying spot price. This rate, which is periodically exchanged between long and short positions, ensures that the contract closely tracks the spot market. The funding mechanism serves as a stabilising force, reducing deviations between the contract and spot prices.

Trading Flexibility

  • The trading periods for classic futures are restricted by the contract's expiration date. Traders need to plan their entry and exit strategies within the contract’s lifespan, which can limit their flexibility in managing their positions.

  • Perpetual futures offer continuous trading opportunities, without the constraints of an expiration date. Traders can enter and exit positions at their convenience, aligning with market trends and personal strategies. This flexibility is particularly beneficial in highly volatile markets where timing is crucial.

Pricing Mechanisms

The pricing mechanisms for classic futures and perpetual futures differ based on their unique characteristics. Dated futures derive their prices from various factors, including the spot price of the underlying asset, interest rates, storage costs, and other economic influences. As the contract nears its expiration date, the futures price typically converges with the spot price, thanks to the process of arbitrage. This helps align the futures price with the actual market value of the asset.

Perpetual futures, on the other hand, employ a funding rate mechanism to maintain a close relationship with the underlying spot price. The funding rate is a periodic payment exchanged between long and short positions to ensure the contract price remains aligned with the spot market. When the contract price deviates from the spot price, the funding rate incentivises traders to correct the imbalance, helping to stabilise the contract's value.

How These Mechanisms Impact Trading Decisions

The pricing mechanisms of both types of futures contracts significantly impact trading decisions. In classic futures, the convergence of the futures price with the spot price near expiration can influence when traders choose to enter or exit their positions. Understanding how factors like interest rates and storage costs affect the pricing can also help traders make informed decisions.

For perpetual futures, the funding rate directly affects the cost of holding positions. Traders must monitor these rates closely, as they can influence the profitability of long or short positions over time. High funding rates, for example, can make it costly to maintain a long-term position, while negative funding rates may benefit short positions. This dynamic pricing environment requires traders to be vigilant about market conditions and adjust their strategies accordingly.


Classic (dated) futures and perpetual futures offer distinct features and benefits for traders and investors. Classic futures, with their set expiration dates, are ideal for traditional hedging and speculation. Perpetual futures, with their open-ended nature and dynamic funding rates, cater to continuous trading and leveraged strategies, particularly in the cryptocurrency space. Understanding the unique pricing mechanisms and trading flexibilities of each contract type is essential for making informed trading decisions. By carefully evaluating these characteristics, traders can align their strategies with their financial goals and effectively navigate the diverse futures markets.