cards have been exchanged by
radio amateurs since the beginning of the hobby to confirm 2-way
the practice of QSLing is thought to predate amateur radio itself, as a
of verifying listener reports of some of the earliest experimental
signals, especially when heard over long distances. QSL cards are often
be the final courtesy of a contact, and indeed millions are exchanged
QSL cards can provide proof for operating awards of a contact with a
particular entity or area, they are also interesting to collect as they
all have their own unique style, often reflecting a particular ham’s
interests or location, and sometimes come from distant countries or
Above: Traditional QSL card, which
includes details such as Operator Call Sign, QTH, Call sign of station
worked, Signal report in RST, Date, Time, Antenna, Transmitter, Power
output, and Receiver info.
What is a QSL card?
term QSL comes from the radio
"Q" code meaning "I confirm reception", and the purpose of
a QSL card is to confirm a contact. The cards themselves are normally
sized, many being very attractive. They often show photographs of the
station, the operator, or the area in which he or she lives, and this
them very interesting.
ham radio operators
exchanged letters to confirm contacts, but eventually the idea of a
card arose. One reason is that they were cheaper to send through the
Another is that it saved time from having to write the same
such as location and station details, over and over.
ham radio operators send
QSL cards for a variety of reasons. Often colorful, they are fun to
collect, and it’s nice to have a card that reminds one of a special
whether it was with a rare country or a memorable person.
are also required when
applying for ham radio awards. One of the most famous awards is DXCC
Century Club), issued by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), for
proof of making contacts with a hundred countries. Further endorsements
added for making contacts with additional countries, or on multiple
The QSL card for the K1S lighthouse activation from Spring Point Ledge
Light, in August 2018. Note that since this is for a portable operation
for International Lighthouse & Lightship Weekend (ILLW), it
includes the name of the lighthouse and ILLW number.
QSL Card Content
a bare minimum, a QSL card
should contain enough information to confirm a ham radio contact.
card is pre-printed with the call sign of the originating ham radio
placed prominently on the front. In addition to this, ham radio QSL
cards should include
a number of other details, such as:
- Operator's name and address: This is
obviously very important as it
states where the station is located and who is operating the station.
items associated with the location may be required for certain awards,
- Maidenhead Grid Square
This is important for people
operating on the VHF and UHF bands.
- Islands on the Air (IOTA Number):
For people located on an island,
also be important for operators working towards their Islands on the
- Summits on the Air (SOTA Number):
For people operating from mountaintops, this can be important for
working towards their SOTA awards.
- Others: If you’re
any number of special locations, such as lighthouses, World Wide Floral
Fauna sites, Parks on the Air (POTA), etc., be sure to include the
for these locations, as they are important for operators seeking these
Some hams that do a lot of portable operating leave a space to write
- Callsign of station being
to confirm any
This is an obvious requirement for
card, but be sure to fill it in correctly, using the UTC date - not
The time included on a QSL card is
given in UTC - Universal Time Coordinated. By using
one global standard
there is no need for time zone conversions. Sometimes the letter 'z'
used to denote UTC.
- Signal Report:
The signal report given is useful
confirms the signal strength, readability and other factors related to
conditions at the time.
- Frequency / Band: At the very
least, the band should be specified, but
preferably the frequency of the contact should be included.
- Mode of Operation:
The mode of operation is important.
stations may run several stations at the same time, and therefore the
operation is important. It is also important when claiming awards as it
necessary to detail the mode for a certain endorsement.
- Equipment Used: It’s always
interesting to see what equipment
other hams are using.
- PSE / TNX
It is helpful to have space to say whether a
card has been received, or whether one is wanted from the other
Something like "PSE/TNX QSL" (please / thanks QSL) is often used.
Who uses QSL cards?
organizations send QSL cards, including:
- Ham Radio Operators:
Many ham radio operators, especially
using the HF bands, send them regularly. The practice is less common
contacts above 50 MHz, although for DX contacts many stations still
collect QSL cards for awards.
- Short Wave Listeners: Listeners often
send QSL cards as well. They
may send a card to a transmitting station to give a listener report in
of receiving a card back. The more common practice is to send a
Report, which includes many of the same details as you would put on a
but adds information such as propagation conditions, details of what
and information about other stations heard in that area.
- Broadcast stations:
Occasionally, broadcast stations may send
QSL cards. To qualify for a QSL card, broadcast stations often require
listener has listened to the station over a period of time (usually 30
Besides the technical details, they also like to receive comments about
Collecting QSL Cards
QSL cards has become
an interesting hobby in itself. Cards from distant corners of the earth
attractive and displayed in the shack. Some hams and shortwave
collect vintage QSLs, which turn up in places like antique shops and
the rise in the use of
electronic forms of sending and saving data, electronic QSLs or eQSLs
widely used, providing lower cost of cards and delivery, increased
automation as well as greater functionality.
are two prominent
electronic QSL systems that are in use:
of the first electronic QSL
services was eQSL,
which enables the electronic exchange of QSL card images.
These electronic QSLs can then be printed on the recipient's local
also offers their own award
program, but since 2009, CQ Amateur Radio magazine also began accepting
electronic QSLs from eQSL, for its award programs, and the Deutscher
Radio Club (DARC) began accepting eQSLs for their award programs around
same time. Many logging programs also have the ability to directly
with the eQSL database to transmit contact details in real-time.
visit eQSL’s website.
ARRL's Logbook of the
program was introduced in 2004. This
electronic QSL method enables
confirmations to be submitted electronically. The electronic QSL
are in the form of database records which are electronically signed
private key of the sender.
confirmations are accepted
for ARRL award programs, including DXCC and Worked All States (WAS),
makes applying for these awards very easy, once the system has been set
enables DXCC or WAS status to be automatically updated as new logs come
downside for LoTW is that the
system simply matches database records and does not have the ability to
QSL card images that can be printed out for collecting.
The ARRL Logbook of The
LOTW can be reached here.
What is a QSL Bureau?
QSL bureau or buro, is a
well-established system for sending amateur radio QSL cards in bulk via
traditional way of sending
QSL cards is through the mail, but sending cards directly is costly as
them need to be sent overseas.
order to overcome this, the
QSL bureau concept enables cards to be sent in bulk. Although it takes
time, the QSL bureau provides a very much more cost effective way of
many countries it is possible
for members to send and receive cards via the bureau run by their
society - the national society may also allow non-members to collect
not send them.
How to use a QSL bureau
a QSL bureau exists and
operates reliably, it is usually very simple to use. There are incoming
outgoing routes, each of which operates in a slightly different manner.
each QSL bureau will
have slightly different rules, they all operate in basically the same
QSL cards: When
sending cards out through the QSL
bureau, they can be assembled at home. It normally helps to sort them
countries, and where applicable, into call areas. All the cards should
clearly marked with the callsign of the recipient. If the back of the
clear - mark it here as well, and if there is a QSL manager mark this
as well. Collect these in a large envelope and send it to the required
of your national society for outgoing QSL cards. Hams in the United
use the ARRL Outgoing QSL Service. Click
here for more info.
QSL cards: To
claim any incoming QSL cards, it is
typically necessary to either send pre-paid envelopes or postage to the
Your callsign should be printed on the envelope, typically in the upper
corner. These envelopes should be sent to the required address for your
particular bureau. Hams in Maine will use the W1 QSL bureau, which is
by the Yankee Clipper Contest Club: http://www.w1qsl.org/
operators, and stations located in countries with unreliable postal
on QSL managers to send their cards for them. Most of these operators
details about the QSL Manager on their QRZ page. They will also specify
QSL cards should be sent either directly to the QSL manager, or via the
When sending cards to a QSL manager,
normally expected that the return postage will be sent along. This is
courtesy for any direct QSL request, but it is usually required by
Often QSL managers will request International Reply Coupons (or IRCs)
for airmail and other expenses, but IRCs are difficult to obtain in the
accepted alternative is to include two or more US Dollar bills in with
- Via the bureau:
When sending cards to a QSL manager via the
bureau, the QSL manager's call should be clearly indicated on the card,
station1 via station2. In this way, the card can be routed to the the
manager instead of the actual station that was contacted.
you're here, you may also be interested in: Writing
a Reception Report
here to download a logo that you may use on your QSL card, or