OK, you just worked a new rare one and would like to confirm the QSO by exchanging QSL cards. Here is a tutorial on the various methods that can be used to get that confirmation.
There are two ways to confirm that you made the contact:
- Cards: you send a QSL card to the station you worked and he sends you back his card. This is the traditional method. Modern conveniences have added some twists explained below.
- Electronic: Using either LOTW or eQSL you confirm the contact electronically via the internet. Which service you use depends… The ARRL’s DXCC program only recognizes LOTW electronic confirmations. eQSL has their own set of awards based on their electronic confirmations.
How you QSL really depends on two factors:
- Your ham radio goals: If you are after ARRL awards, such as DXCC or the ‘Challenge ‘ award then you will need to collect cards and/or LOTW confirmations. Just interested in eQSL awards then cards and/or LOTW is not needed.
- The DX Station: Most DX stations will explicitly declare their preferred (or perhaps only) way that they will confirm contacts. Usually you can find this information on the DX station’s QRZ web information page.
Lets look at the various QSL methods in detail:
For many years it was acceptable to send a DX station a post card QSL and they would respond with a post card back. Increasing postage rates put the squash on this method.
Now there are three methods to exchange an actual QSL card:
Direct: You send the DX station a card using their QRZ address, he / she sends you one back. Most DX stations require that you include a self addressed envelope and ‘green stamps’ a.k.a. US$. The going rate is currently $2 or $3. Yes, you enclose US currency in the envelope along with an addressed envelope and your QSL card. A little scarey putting money in a letter and sending it to a foreign country. Your elmer has had pretty good success doing this but he has been ripped off at times. The practice is still very common.
Direct is good for US stations as they usually only request a SASE without any green stamps.
When would you do this? If the DX station does not use LOTW and/or you need the confirmation quickly and you would like to have the card in your collection. Not something you do for every QSO.
The Bureau: a.k.a. the buro. The Bureau is a system of exchanging cards that was set up a long time ago to help save postage, especially if you are sending / receiving a lot of cards. The bureau consists of an outgoing service where you send your cards and an incoming service where you receive cards.
To start the process you set up an account with your call numbers incoming QSL bureau so they can receive cards for you and then bulk mail them to your home. You bulk send your cards to the outgoing bureau at the ARRL headquarters. It is simpler than it sounds.
Use this link: http://www.arrl.org/incoming-qsl-service
You can not exchange QSL cards with US stations via the bureau.
When you you use the Buro? Send a QSL via the =bureau for every contact you make outside the US. or just to new band / countries. it may take 2 years to get a reply but it sure is a reasonably priced method.
The Online QSL Request System (OQRS): This is a relatively new system for obtaining a DX QSL card that has become very popular with DXpeditions. This system is set up by the DX station and uses the popular Club Log web site. You confirm the QSL(s) on line, make a donation via PayPal and the station sends you the card.
Here is a link to the Club Log OQRS help page: http://clublog.freshdesk.com/support/articles/54921-oqrs-online-qsl-requests
The recent, and popular, Wake Atoll DXpedition (K9W) is using OQRS. here is a link to their QSL page: http://www.wake2013.org/pages/qsl.html
There are two popular electroninc QSL confirmation systems:
LOTW: This is the ARRL’s electronic QSO confirmation site. It supports the ARRL and CQ awards. While a bit difficult to set up, if you use a good logging program such as HRD or DXLab up / downloading QSLs is straight forward. One complaint is that it does not include card images. If you are going for DXCC or any of the related ARRL awards is its the only accepted electronic system.
More information is available here: http://www.arrl.org/logbook-of-the-world
eQSL: eQSL pioneered electronic QSLing. It is a simple to use system that have their own awards which are nice certificates you can order or download and print. eQSL does have card images you can set up for your station and you can download the cards of DX stations you worked into HRD or DXLab. eQSL is not recognized by the ARRL for their awards.
More information is available here: http://www.eqsl.cc/qslcard/Index.cfm
That’s about it for a tutorial on QSLing. if you have any questions or wish to add anything please e-mail SERC@n4ser.org we’d be happy to hear from you.
Good DX, hope you snag that rare one!