Monday, May 16, 2011

QSL Cards

QSL Cards

Part of the fun of amateur radio collecting cards, called QSL cards, from other amateurs that you've talked to on the radio. Some people like to collect stamps form various parts of the world but hams collect QSLs. If you are also a stamp collector you will find that often a card comes from a distant country with an interesting stamp on the envelope.

Another reason for collecting QSL cards is to participate in the many certificate programs available to amateurs. Whether it's getting your DXCC (DX century club) for getting cards confirming contacts with 100 or more DX countries, working all states in the U.S., all provinces in Canada, or many other awards available you will need the cards to support your claim for the award.

Choosing a QSL Card

If you plan to QSL your contacts then you will need a personal QSL card such as the author's shown here. You can design your own and have a local printer produce them for you or you can order cards from one of many services you will find advertised in QST, Radio Amateurs of Canada, CQ and other magazines.

Give some thought to the content of the card and the quantity you will be ordering. Usually larger quantities are much less expensive on a per card basis.

Contents of a QSL Card

Some of the content that should be on each card is:

  • your call sign
  • your name and address
  • a place to write
    - the call of the station you contacted
    - the date (use DD/MM/YY to comply with most countries). Be sure the date used is the UTC date (see note below).
    - time in UTC (Coordinated Universal Time)
    - frequency or band
    - mode (SSB, CW, Rtty, etc.)
    - RST
  • a request to QSL or thanks for a QSL received.

Some optional items you might include are:

  • your station (maybe even a picture)
  • your CQ and ITU zones
  • the county you are in
  • your grid location (primarily if you operate above 50 MHz)

Note: UTC date is the date that corresponds to the UTC time. This often causes confusion to a new ham when the UTC date is different from the local date. If, for example, you are in the Eastern time zone and UTC is 5 hours ahead of local time then at 7 PM EST the UTC changes to 0000. If the date was 01/12/2006 (Dec. 1/06) then the UTC date becomes 02/12/2006 (Dec. 2/06).

If you plan to send a lot of QSLs you might find that using a computerized logging program such as DX4Win, EasyLog, or DXBase and others can help you keep track of your contacts and also print labels for the QSL cards.

Sending QSLs

To send a QSL to an amateur you have contacted (QSO) you have two basic choices. QSL direct via the post office or send a batch of cards to your QSL bureau. Using the bureau is by far the most cost effective route but you might not want to wait for the return QSL.

QSLing Direct

To QSL direct you will fill out your QSL card and mail it the the person you contacted. Say you had a QSO with W1RTA and you would like his QSL card. First you need to find his address. This can be done by searching an online callbook such as Buckmaster or QRZ! or you can use a CD-ROM callbook from these organizations or others such as the Flying Horse callbook.

Then fill out the the card, address it (maybe use an envelope to protect it), put a stamp on and drop it in the mailbox. Usually in a few weeks you can expect a card in return.

If you are sending a card to a DX contact it is generally good practice to include a self addressed envelope and return postage. Do not use the postage of your country as it will not be valid for use in the DX country. Instead include either a U.S. dollar bill (known by hams as a green stamp) or an International Reply Coupon (IRC) which you can purchase at the post office. Us Canadians cannot use a loonie to pay for return postage as it is heavy and also subject to theft. Some countries require more than the equivalent of a dollar for postage. One example is Germany where you should send two dollars or an IRC. And we thought our postage was expensive! Remember that DX amateurs, especially those in rare countries, get a lot of requests for QSL cards and so it is only fair to them that you provide the cost of postage.

QSL Managers

Active DX stations often use a QSL manager especially when mail to the DX country is difficult at best and non-existent at worst. Some DX stations use managers in the U.S. which makes postage less expensive. You will be aware of the QSL manager when looking up the address of the DX call or by lists published in some of the amateur magazines.

Online Help

There are many online manager lists as well. Try for some references.

You send a card to a QSL manager in the same way as discussed above. A return envelope and postage is a must.

QSLing via the Bureau

Using a QSL bureau is by far the least expensive way to collect QSL cards. Most major Amateur Radio countries have a bureau where cards are collected from hams within the country and then forwarded in bulk to the destination country. Using bulk mail to send your cards to the bureau and for them to forward the cards to other countries cost much less for postage than mailing individual cards. Both RAC in Canada and ARRL in the U.S. offer QSL cards outgoing services for amateurs who are members. Incoming cards can generally be received whether or not you are a member but membership alone is worth the cost of the bureau's service.

QSL Bureau Information

More information on how to use the services offered by RAC and the ARRL may be found on the following web sites.


A recent phenomenon in the QSL scene is the ability to QSL via the Internet. To do this you only need to go to at and register for this free service. Using your web browser you will be able to design your own QSL card, send cards to contacts you have made and receive cards. The service also provides features for organizing cards received and creating summaries of them. Currently eQSLs are not acceptable for most awards such as DXCC.

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