QSLing with more Success
As you chase DX and other stations, you may not get all the QSL cards you want for collecting and for awards. This article will help make suggestions and hopefully you will learn some new ways or information. QSL cards are great for learning and collecting and putting them up on your wall or in a picture type notebook.
I have written a couple different QSL articles and learned over the years different ways of QSLing and getting cards from DX stations you worked. I have taken KØGEP, Greg’s April 2001 article and edited, deleted, and added updated info so may use it as a reference.
I liked his format best for this subject. The following from help from over the years W0AW, K0GEP, TCDXA members, radio magazines, DX publications, and myself from learning as I go.
Your QSL Card
To start off you must send the correct information so that the other station can find you in his/her log and also needed for verifying awards. If you need a QSL printer, I recommend you do some research on the eHam.net/reviews website for reviews of all the printers at www.eham.net/reviews/products/23. I personally is UX5UO Printer last couple times. Many on list to choose from.
QSL card must have the following items to show contact for valid confirmation:
- Print or computer labels clear and neat
- QSO with Station: 3YØC (Callsign of the station worked)
- Date : 10/02/01 (Day/Month/Year) Standard format used
- Time : 23:24 (Time in UTC only)
- MHz : 14.260 (Freq in MHz) 20 Meters
- RST : 599 (CW/Digital uses three digits in report) Or 59 (SSB uses two digits)
- Mode 2-Way : SSB (Mode you used for 2-way contact)
- Additional information you can show on your card that helps the station you worked:
- Your mailing address (Name, Street, PO Box if used, City, State, and Zip code)
- County (Lot of DX and other hams collect Counties, States, and Zones)
- Grid Square
- ITU Zone and CQ Zone
- Your station info: Rig, antenna, power, etc.
- Your QSL Card Format
Most QSL cards these days use a picture on one side with callsign, location, and IOTA number (if used). The other side is all the QSO data which makes the job easier for the QSL Manager or BURO volunteer. It is also easier for Award Personal to check cards. Cards not read easily will be set aside to sort later.
- Standard size QSL cards are 3.5 by 5.5 inches.
- Callsign should be large plain letters that are easy to read.
- QSO DATA neat and clear in Black ink. NO PENCIL !!!
- Double and triple check your UTC time and your date (Day/Month/Year).
- No Errors allowed! If you make a mistake on your QSL card, best to throw it away and start over.
- Simple neat easy to read card and format is the best way to go.
- Mail QSL cards in envelope unless using a QSL Bureau.
- If you live on an Island with IOTA number, it MUST be on QSL card, per RSGB rules. Many hams chase IOTAs and need the correct number for credit. (Islands On The Air).
Outer (Larger) QSL Envelope
- Print clearly in block letters in ink when addressing outer envelope.
- The Country name is on the bottom line of the address. Do not use Callsign in mailing address!
- Put your name and address in the upper left of envelope. Do not use your callsign. DO NOT use callsigns to avoid attention of a currency/IRC exchange.
- Include U.S.A. in your return address.
- Consider having a rubber stamp made with your name and address in clear block letters. Use this for your return address on the outer envelope.
- Do not use this stamp on return envelope for it could indicate the DXer is sending money to the USA.
- Apply the necessary postage. See postal rates further down. Having postal employee use a metered print out label stamp. This keeps stamp collectors from ripping your stamp off and throwing the rest away in trash.
- Use “nesting” airmail envelopes for DX QSLing. This avoids folding inner envelope. Foreign postal workers look for “fat” envelopes they know contain currency
- Use regular airmail striped envelopes to ensure airmail service in foreign countries.
- Do NOT use callsigns on envelope that could attract attention to mail theft.
- Make sure you put U.S.A. on the last line of your address.
- Put your name and callsign on INSIDE of flap in case your card gets separated from envelope.
- Use pencil and your QSO may still get confirmed and correctly returned to you
Insert QSL card and return postage into return envelope. Insert the return envelope, flap first in, into the outer envelope. This prevents slicing off the flap when the outer envelope is opened.
While listening to the station your working, listen for awhile on what he prefers for a QSL route. When you work the station and he has not said his route for some time, you can ask him “what is your QSL info.“The best source for QSL information is the DX station you worked. They will periodically give out QSL information while working the pile ups. LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN is a big tool for DXing.
Locate the correct address to send the QSL card.
There are several QSL methods.
Currently the more common method is QRZ.com (www.QRZ.com). Many Hams are updating their QRZ.com info with BIOs about themselves and also state they wishes for accepting QSLs. Another way of looking up their address is a HamCall (CD ROM) or going to www.hamcall.net.
Also known as MGR. If the station you worked uses a manager, then you would send it to the managers address and on the QSL card you would write the stations call the “via” then the managers callsign. An example would be you worked 3W6DX and his manager is NØODK, then on the card you would write “3W6DK via NØODK”.
Also known as BUR or BURO. With this service you must be a member of the ARRL (for USA ops). Some other sources for QSL address and routes are the following:
QRZ.com – Currently the more common method of looking up info. The website is www.qrz.com and it has look up, forums, news, and other features. You can also buy the CD ROM which is also downloadable.
NG3K.com – One of my more favorite websites lately for it has announced future and current DX operations, contests operations, contest calendars and info, various callbooks for other countries, and a lot of other QSL and DX information.
WF5E QSL Service – I have been using this service on and off for many years now. His website and information is on www.qsl.net/wf5e With this service you send him your QSL cards and he collects them from many ops and sends them out in one package. His fee is now 2 QSL cards for one US dollar or one IRC. He worries about the correct route and information and your DX card is returned via the ARRL BURO. His website also lists some of the DX stations that do not QSL to him, or has managers that direct QSL only. Read his website for more information. Eliminates the need to stock envelopes, stamps, IRCs, tracking routes and managers. Good QSL rates return as high as 80%. Turn around time 3 to 18 months.
ARRL QSL Bureau – Listed later in this packet. Must be an ARRL member and well worth it.
ARRL Logbook of the World – Listed later in this packet.
GoList – www.golist.net This website is a service for looking up QSL routes, QSL managers, and other info.
Buckmasters Ham Call – www.hamcall.net This website like QRZ.com has a callsign look up and also sells a CD ROM.
QRZ.DX – This is a weekly newsletter buy Carl Smith, N4AA that I have been buying for years! It is available in printed (snail mail) or preferred email. Carl lists DX operations, present and future, and QSL routes along with DX news. He has been doing this since 1979 and does an excellent job. His mail subscription rates are 50 issues for $45 or $25 for 25 (weeks). Available in Email as a PDF file to you 50 issues are $25. (I get this one) He also publishes an excellent quarterly DX Magazine. His E-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org Website is www.dxpub.net
The Weekly DX and The Daily DX – I have been new to trying this out for a year or so now. Published by Bernie McClenny, W3UR. They are two separate items. One comes out as a weekly email and the other is a daily email. They are publications that have DX news, DX operations, QSL routes, etc. I think they are both excellent but if you want your news daily or weekly. Hardcore DXers get the daily issues. His E-mail is email@example.com Website is www.dailydx.com
DXNL – This is a free weekly DX Newsletter via E-Mail the lists DX operations and QSL routes. To subscribe or unsubscribe to the DXNL mailing list yourself at: www.darc.de/referate/dx/fedxms.htm
425 DX News – This is a free weekly DX Newsletter via E-Mail the lists DX operations and QSL routes. To subscribe or unsubscribe go to website www.425dxn.org and subscribe under the “Mailing List.” They also have a similar calendar list that is sent out for DX operations via email.
425 DXN Magazine – This is a free monthly magazine on DX news, pictures, QSL route, and other info. This is also listed on the www.425dxn.org website. The website also has QSL look up.
DX Summit – www.dxsummit.fi – This website is a DX Spot website which I sometimes use the “search” page to look up past postings on the cluster (telnet) for any callsign. If you go to the above website, then go the “Search” then enter the callsign, check either DX or any for all callsign area, pull down tab for 1000 spots and hit “Search” It will list any cluster spots of that callsign if ever listed and any info after. It may or may not be accurate but it is another tool for looking up DX information.
Some of the magazines that have DX and QSL information PLUS more.
ARRL – WWW.ARRL.ORG
CQ Magazine – www.cq-amateur-radio.com
The DX Magazine – www.dxpub.net
RSGB – www.rsgb.org
U.S. Postal Rates – WWW.USPS.GOV You can go to www.usps.com/prices/first-class-mail-international-prices.htm for the latest prices for mailing. Generally the 2009 rate for sending a QSL card envelope is first class USA will be $0.44, Canada is $0.75, Mexico is $0.79, and all other countries will be $0.98. Do not use USA postal stamps on return envelope. Do not use fancy commemorative stamps. Use most common stamps or metered print out stamp from post office to avert possible postal theft by stamp collectors.
There are three methods to provide the DX station with airmail return funds for your card.
- Green Stamps
- Foreign Stamps
International Reply Coupons – IRC
IRC coupons are sent in your envelope for the DX station to use at their post office to pay for the postage of the return envelope and card back to you. IRCs can be purchased at most U.S. Post Offices for $2.10 currently. One IRC is a minimum postage for an unregistered AIRMAIL letter to a foreign country in the UPU (Universal Postage Union) 189 members. Make sure the postal clerk stamps the LEFT side of the IRC Coupon with the postmark. IRCs stamped on the right or not at all are valueless and cannot be used. IRCs expire after some time and you need to use them or update them at the Post Office before the expire. Some countries do not accept IRCs. Most U.S. Postal workers are not well informed about IRCs. Some countries may require more then one IRC. When purchasing IRC’s, make sure you are getting the 2009 IRC and not the 2006 IRC. The 2006 IRC expires 12/31/2009. The 2009 IRC will be good until 12/31/2013.
Green Stamps (One Green stamp = one U.S. Dollar) For many years, using Green Stamps have been used for paying return postage, even in Canada and Mexico. It is getting more expensive to do this direct for sometimes it takes two or three to fully pay the postage back. If you do not send enough, the DX station operator or manager may not return a card to you or return it via the QSL Bureau. Green Stamps are recognized in most countries and are easier then IRCs and in more demand. Use CRISP newer bills with no marks for some foreign banks do not accept “worn” U.S. currency. You can go to www.n6dhz.com/irc-chart.html website for comparing IIRC to Green Stamp to use. I will tell you now I do not know how up to date the information on that chart is. I have very good QSL return rate using Green Stamps. With large expensive DX operations, consider donating more Green Stamps for helping them go to rare countries and helping you get “a new one.”
Foreign Postage Stamps and DX Supplies. Foreign stamps of DX country that you send to the DXer or manager for return postage to you are harder to spot the “Green Stamps” in postage envelopes. You can buy stamps, mailing envelopes, rubber stamps, and other supplies from the two below. I have used William Plum several times and have no problems. I buy pack of 50 each of Euro Airmail Return (4.5 x 6.25) envelopes and Euro Airmail Mailer (4.75 x 6.5) envelopes from him. He has different rates and quantities.
William J. Plum, 12 Glenn Road, Flemington, NJ 08822-3322
Phone : 908-788-1020 – E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org FAX : 908-782-2612
Foreign postage stamps, mailing envelopes, QSLs, and other related items.
James E. Mackey, P.O. Box 270569, West Hartford, CT. 06127-0569
Foreign postage stamps, mailing envelopes, rubber stamps, and other related items.
Some additional notes…..
- When sending to a DX station for a QSL card direct. Please remember that it costs money for the DX to print the QSL cards and they may not make a lot of money in a year. Consider they may need extra funds for QSL card, postage, and envelopes. So when sending Green Stamps, in some countries it may require two or three green stamps just to cover postage now a days for postal rates are going up. One Dollar (Green Stamp) is equal to about $0.6756 in Euro (November rate). It takes 1.70 Euros for an oversea letter. So if you put $3 to a QSL card, the 30 cents will be left to cover the cost of envelope and QSL card. DX Hams do not want to make a living on collect Green Stamps but they don’t want to lose money in their hobby. Plus the dollar is losing value to the EURO in this economy.
- For non-vacation DX operations and large DX operations, consider donating more with your QSL card. They take time to ship, airplane, hotels, use helicopters and other equipment to go to rare Islands or countries. Sometimes the foreign ham license alone to operate there is expensive.
- More DXers like to work DX with USA managers for cheaper and safer mail. For the DXer, they like to collect at least one card from every country and state for an album. After that, they may use the BURO or other means.
Below is information on sending cards “via the Buro.” It may take long time to get card back but it cost very little. Return rates vary from 40% to 60% and my take months or years before a QSL card is sent back to you. Consider being an ARRL member for this service, monthly magazine and other services. 225 Countries are served by the Outgoing QSL Service. 73 are not served, and 14 restrict service to members of their country’s national radio society. If you’re not in a rush to get QSL cards, the Outgoing Bureau is a good way to go. The below is from the ARRL.ORG website under “Services” under the “QSL Service.” I will copy and paste here for some of the info. Go to the website for further info and updates.
ARRL QSL Bureau also known as “the Buro”
Incoming QSL (QSL cards returning to you from DX)
Within the US, the ARRL DX QSL Bureau System is made up of numerous call-area bureaus that act as central clearing houses for QSL cards arriving from foreign countries. Volunteers staff these “incoming” bureaus. The service is free. Most countries have “outgoing” QSL bureaus that operate in much the same manner as the ARRL Outgoing QSL Service. The members sends his cards to his outgoing bureau where they are packaged and shipped to the appropriate countries. A majority of the DX QSLs are shipped directly to the individual incoming bureaus where volunteers sort the incoming QSLs by the first letter of the call sign-suffix. One individual may be assigned the responsibility of handling from one or more letters of the alphabet. All incoming QSL Bureaus have email addresses. Some Bureaus have active web pages.
- Send a 5 x 7-1/2 or 6 x 9 inch self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) or money credit where applicable to the bureau serving your call-sign district.
- Neatly print your call-sign in the upper left corner of the envelope.
- Place your mailing address on the front of the envelope. A suggested way to send envelopes is to affix a first class stamp and clip extra postage to the envelope.
- Then, if you receive more than 1 ounce of cards, they can be sent in a single package.
*** Some incoming bureaus sell envelopes or postage credits in addition to the normal SASE handling. They provide the proper envelope and postage upon the prepayment of a certain fee. The exact arrangements can be obtained by sending your inquiry with a SASE to your area bureau. (The Zero Bureau uses this method.)
Minnesota uses the WØ QSL Bureau.
WØ QSL Bureau
PO Box 907
Florissant, MO 63032
Comments or questions on this Bureau’s operation may be directed to email@example.com.
See the WØ home page. (www.zeroburo.org)
OUTGOING QSL (QSL Cards sending out by you to DX Stations.)
Note: The ARRL QSL Service cannot be used to exchange QSL cards within the 48 contiguous states.
One of the greatest bargains of League membership is being able to use the ARRL Outgoing QSL Service to conveniently send your DX QSL cards overseas to foreign QSL Bureaus. Your ticket for using this service is proof of ARRL Membership and following the fee schedule below. For those of you who are not quite so DX active you can send 10 cards or less for just $1.50. You can’t even get a deal like that at your local warehouse supermarket! And the potential savings over the substantial cost of individual QSLing is equal to many times the price of your annual dues. Your cards are sorted by the Outgoing QSL Service staff, and are usually shipped within one month of receipt. The Service handles approximately one million cards each year!
QSL cards are shipped to QSL Bureaus throughout the world, which are typically maintained by the national Amateur Radio Society of each country. While no cards are sent to individuals or individual QSL managers, keep in mind that what you might lose in speed is more than made up in the convenience and savings of not having to address and mail each QSL card separately. (In the case of DXpeditions and/or active DX stations that use US QSL managers, a better approach is to QSL directly to the QSL manager. The various DX newsletters, the GOLIST QSL manager directory, and other publications, are good sources of up to date QSL manager information.)
As postage costs become increasingly prohibitive, don’t go broke before you’re even halfway towards making DXCC. There’s a better and cheaper way “QSL VIA BURO” through the ARRL Outgoing QSL Service!
How To Use The ARRL Outgoing QSL Service
- Presort your DX QSL’s alphabetically by parent call-sign prefix (AP, CE, DL, ES, EZ, F, G, JA, LY, PY, UN, YL, 5N, 9Y and so on).
- Canadian and Australian cards should be sorted by numerical callsign (VE1, VE2, VE3 & VK1, VK2,VK3 etc). NOTE: Some countries have a parent prefix and use additional prefixes, i.e. G (parent prefix) = M, 2E, 2I, 2M, 2W,….
- When sorting countries that have multiple prefixes, keep that country’s prefixes grouped with the parent prefix in your alphabetical stack. Addresses are not required.
- DO NOT separate the country prefixes by use of paper clips, rubber bands, slips of paper or envelopes.
- Enclose proof of current ARRL Membership. This can be in the form of a photocopy of the white address label from your current copy of QST. You can also write on a slip of paper the information from the label, and use that as proof of Membership. A copy of your current Membership card is also acceptable.
- Members (including foreign, QSL Managers, or managers for DXpeditions) should enclose payment of $5.00 for the first half-pound of cards or portion thereof approximately 75 cards weigh half-pound. $10.00 for one pound, the fee rate then increases at the rate of $5.00 for each additional half-pound (i.e. a package containing one and one-half pounds of cards should include the fee of $15.00 and so on).
- A package of only Ten (10) cards or fewer costs only $1.50. Eleven (11) to Twenty (20) cards are $2.50. Twenty-One (21) to Thirty (30) cards are $3.75.
- Please pay by check (or money order) and write your callsign on the check. Send “green stamps” (cash) at your own risk.
- DO NOT send postage stamps or IRCs.
- Please make checks payable to: “The ARRL Outgoing QSL Service”.
- DXCC credit CANNOT be used towards the QSL Service fee.
- Include only the cards, proof of Membership, and fee in the package.
- Wrap the package securely and address it to the
ARRL Outgoing QSL Service
225 Main Street
Newington CT 06111-1494.
- Family members may also use the service by enclosing their QSLs with those of the primary member. Include the appropriate fee with each individual’s cards and indicate “family membership” on the primary member’s proof of membership.
- Blind members who do not receive QST need only include the appropriate fee along with a note indicating the cards are from a blind member.
- ARRL affiliated club stations may use the service when submitting club QSLs by indicating the club name. Club secretaries should check affiliation papers to ensure that affiliation is current. In addition to sending club station
- QSLs through this service, affiliated clubs may also “pool” their members’ individual QSL cards to effect an even greater savings.
- Each club member using this service must also be a League member.
- Cards should be sorted “en masse” by prefix, and proof of Membership enclosed for each ARRL member.
Recommended QSL Card Dimensions
The efficient operation of the worldwide system of QSL Bureau requires that cards be easy to handle and sort. Cards of unusual dimensions, either much larger or much smaller than normal, slow the work of the Bureaus, most of which is done by unpaid volunteers. A review of the cards received by the ARRL Outgoing QSL Service indicates that most fall in the following range:
Height = 2×3/4 to 4×1/4 in. (70 to 110 mm)
Width = 4×3/4 to 6×1/4 in. (120 to 160 mm)
Cards in this range can be easily sorted, stacked and packaged. Cards outside this range create problems; in particular, the larger cards often cannot be handled without folding or otherwise damaging them. In the interest of efficient operation of the worldwide QSL Bureau system, it is recommended that cards entering the system be limited to the range of dimensions given.
[Note: IARU Region 2 has suggested the following dimensions as optimum: Height 3 1/2 in. (90 mm), Width 5 1/2 in. (140 mm).]
Countries Not Served By The Outgoing QSL Service
Approximately 225 DXCC countries are served by the ARRL Outgoing QSL Service, as detailed in the ARRL DXCC List. This includes nearly every active country.
As noted previously, cards are forwarded from the ARRL Outgoing Service to a counterpart Bureau in each of these countries. In some cases, there is no Incoming Bureau in a particular country and cards therefore cannot be forwarded. However, QSL cards can be forwarded to a QSL manager, e.g., ZB2FX via (G3RFX). The ARRL Outgoing Service cannot forward cards to the following countries:
- A3 Tonga
- A5 Bhutan
- A6 United Arab Emirates
- C2 Nauru
- C5 Gambia
- C6 Bahamas
- CN Morocco
- D2 Angola
- D4 Cape Verde
- E3 Eritrea
- E5 North & South Cook Is.
- HH Haiti
- HV Vatican
- J5 Guinea-Bissau
- J8 St. Vincent
- KG4 Guantanamo Bay
- KH0 Mariana Is.
- KH1 Baker & Howland Is.
- KH4 Midway Island
- KH5 Palmyra & Jarvis Is.
- KH7K Kure Island
- KH9 Wake island
- KP1 Navassa Island
- KP5 Desecheo Island
- P2 Papua New Guinea
- P5 North Korea
- PZ Suriname
- S0 Western Sahara
- S7 Seychelles
- S9 Sao Tome & Principe
- ST Sudan
- SU Egypt
- T2 Tuvalu
- T3 Kiribati
- T5 Somalia
- T8 Palau
- TJ Cameroon
- TL Central African Rep
- TN Congo
- TT Chad
- TY Benin
- V3 Belize
- V4 St. Kitts & Nevis
- V6 Micronesia
- VP2E Anguilla
- VP2M Montserrat
- XU Cambodia
- XW Laos
- XZ Myanmar
- YA Afghanistan
- Z2 Zimbabwe
- ZD9 Tristan da Cunha
- 3B Agalega, Mauritius, Rodrigues
- 3C0 Pagalu Island
- 3C Equatorial Guinea
- 3DA Swaziland
- 3W Vietnam
- 3X Guinea
- 4J Azerbaijan
- 4W Timor- Leste
- 5A Libya
- 5R Madagascar
- 5T Mauritania
- 5U Niger
- 5V Togo
- 7O Yemen
- 7P Lesotho
- 7Q Malawi
- 8Q Maldives
- 9L Sierra Leone
- 9N Nepal
- 9U Burundi
- 9X Rwanda
Countries that currently restrict the forwarding of QSL cards to anyone other than members of that country’s national radio society include the following:
- South Africa
- We no longer hold cards for countries with no Incoming Bureau. Only cards indicating a QSL Manager for a station in these particular countries will be forwarded.
- When sending cards to Foreign QSL Managers, make sure to sort these cards using the Manager’s callsign, rather than the station’s callsign.
- SWL cards can be forwarded through the QSL Service.
- The Outgoing QSL Service CANNOT forward stamps, IRCs or “green stamps” (cash) to the foreign QSL bureaus.
Please direct any questions or comments to the ARRL Outgoing QSL Service, 225 Main Street, Newington CT, 06111-1494. Inquires via email may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
When sending your QSL card out, hand write a little note on your card that says something like… “Nice to work you”, “Thanks for the new one”, or “Thanks for the QSO” will put a personal feeling on your card.
Problems getting a QSL card back from a country you need? For a long time I needed a couple easy countries like Portugal CT and Chile CE. I was not sure if mail theft or why my cards were not getting through. So I had QSOs with every CT and CE station I heard, even in contests. I sent cards out via Buro and WF5E until now they are starting to come in the incoming Buro.