If I live in the USA, and buy/sell bitcoins from a Japanese exchange, are their any advantages/disadvantages for doing this, instead of buying bitcoins from a USA exchange?
There are legal differences. I won't go as far as saying I can tell you if any of them are advantages or disadvantages, because I don't think I can.
If both your exchange company and their banking is in your country, then there is no question if there is any legal obligation on your part to tell your government that you dared move money outside the country. Check your laws; if you're middle class, you'll be surprised how low the trigger amount for such issues that you might think would afflict only the seriously affluent can be.
One thing that is not very different is that no bitcoin exchange I am aware of is fully compliant with all laws fit for all sorts of similar enterprises for every location where they do business, and most probably are not compliant in any or only in hardly any. Some like to advertise their compliance, but I suppose the one case (campbx) where I did get more information on that by inquiring is typical. They wrote me earlier this year that they were then only compliant with the (comparatively easy) Federal FinCEN rules, not the rather tough state money transmitter licensing, although they emphasized their efforts towards progress on that front.
Whilst you may argue that this is mostly because many people don't get how these laws cannot possibly apply to bitcoin businesses, that hasn't stopped authorities in some countries from temporarily seizing a bank account of a bitcoin exchange (one case I know of was in Poland, and one not related to such laws in Germany) or even seizing a bank account for forfeiture (one case I know of in the USA).
So this is not different, but still there is the subtle but important distinction if there is even a chance that your exchange will be allowed to remain in business and at least try to continue honoring its obligations to its customers (as happened with MtGox, even after a possibly minor bank account they had in the US was seized for forfeiture for failing to have state licensing).
I wonder if it would go the same way for an exchange based in the US. Or in comparable countries, for that matter. For a UK company banking in Germany and Poland, the empirical answer is no (bitcoin-24 stopped doing business after its German bank acount was temporarily seized and hence released back to them, and their Polish bank account was simultaneously seized but at least not completely released back to them yet). Again, I wouldn't even try to venture towards judging which is better and for whom.
I'm not 100% sure what this means? If I use a US exchange to buy bitcoins for example, and the back account behind this exchange gets seized for whatever reason, what does that mean for me as a buyer of bitcoins? Does it mean the bitcoins I bought become useful? Or does it mean I can't buy any further bitcoins from that US exchange? Nov 22, 2013 at 11:58
1It doesn't affect any bitcoins you have bought AND withdrawn to your own bitcoin wallet. Those remain useful (not become as they were already useful before). It might affect those you have stored at the exchange, depending on how (and if) they segragate them, and how they treat them---after all, they have lost customer funds and might need to declare bankruptcy, after which all company assets could get equally divided across clients' claims. And if it affects you ability to purchase more bitcoins from that company depends on whether they remain open for such business.– user6049Nov 22, 2013 at 12:02
Even though it seems simple, this question is actually too complicated to answer. It is also ill-defined, because the answer depends on who you are and what types of accounts you have access to, in which currencies, and in which countries.
Right now, I have accounts with all the major Bitcoin exchanges, and I have bank and brokerage accounts in many different countries and currencies. Some exchanges refuse to do business with U.S. residents, while others require U.S. residency. Some exchanges always convert the currency, others don't.
At present, I have found all the exchanges to be severely lacking in maturity, disclosure, and documentation. The only exchange I deal with is Localbitcoins, because it is actually clear what the rules are and how it works.
I am sure everyone will vote this answer down, but the answer depends on who you are, what types of accounts you have access to, and what capabilities to transfer money those banks/brokerage houses have. And where you live.
You make good points, especially the "it depends" part is true on many levels. But I am also confused by your answer: You have accounts with lots of bitcoin exchanges, but you only deal with one? Is there a meaningful way to understand this without assuming you have contradicted yourself?– user6049Nov 22, 2013 at 12:35
Thanks for the comment. In order to evaluate the exchanges, I have opened an account, verified my identity and address, and attempted to use the services. The services are: Bitstamp, BTC-E, CampBX, Coinbase, Coinmama, Coinsetter, ItBit, Localbitcoins, Mt. Gox, and Bitbargain. In all cases, the services are immature and inadequate, except for LocalBitcoins and Bitbargain. I use LocalBitcoins because it is cheaper than Bitbargain. I live in the UK, and the UK national bank system offers instantaneous transfer. As I said, your situation may differ.– zkilnbqiNov 22, 2013 at 16:01
I see. Thanks for clarifying what you meant.– user6049Nov 22, 2013 at 16:02
That is true too. Over the years, I have opened many bank and brokerage accounts, but I really only use a small number of them, depending on what I am trying to accomplish.– zkilnbqiNov 22, 2013 at 16:05
Err, now I have to apologize for apparently editing my comment you replied to without realizing you must have already been typing your reply. Originally, I had included "That sounds like having opened many bank accounts, but only having money in one of them."– user6049Nov 22, 2013 at 16:16