Its Really Pretty Simple!
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. The RAC - BC Incoming QSL Bureau only accepts incoming cards for distribution to area Amateurs.
To QSL direct you fill out your QSL card and mail it the the person you contacted. So, if you had a QSO with VE3RAC and you would like his QSL card, 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.
Fill out your card, address it, using an envelope to protect it, affix a stamp 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. We Canadians cannot use a loonie to pay for return postage as it is heavy and therefore 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 two IRCs. 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.
Active stations often use a QSL manager when mailing to a foreign country. With some less developed DX countries this is difficult. Using Managers in Canada and the US makes postage less expensive. You can often obtain the QSL manager when looking up the address of the call or on the Internet.
You send a card to a QSL manager in the same way as above. A return envelope and postage is a must.
Contents of a QSL CardSome 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, FT8, RTTY, etc.)
- 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 50MHz)
If you plan to send a lot of QSLs you might find that using a computerized logging program such as N1MM (free) or others can help you keep track of your contacts and also print labels for your QSL cards.