Steps in sending a direct QSL to a DX station:

1. Obtain correct address via or use the GO List for QSL manager addresses, or search the Web via Google or
2. Consult the DX station’s web site or web information for special instructions (such as “direct only,” “no IRC,” or whatever).
3. Send via Air Mail. If you know the DX station has postal theft problems, send via Registered Mail (or via FedEx if you are really desperate—one good FedEx is better than three lost Air Mails).
4. Write your own QSL card clearly in permanent black ink.
5. Use UTC/GMT times and dates only. Be sure to label which number is the date and which number is the month and year (for example, is 9/2/03– Sept. 2, 2003 or is it Feb. 9, 2003 or maybe March 2, 1999 or Feb. 3, 2003?).
6. Clearly mark if your contact was a QSO or if you are a SWL.
7. Be sure your own call sign is printed clearly ON THE SAME SIDE OF YOUR CARD as the contact information (YOUR CALL SIGN ALONG WITH time, date, band, mode, etc.).
8. Use very clear type face for your printed call sign. No Old English type; no cute curlicues, etc. Put a slash in all zeros. Be sure your number one, your I and your lower case l (L) are clearly different (note problems with 1, I and l, can you tell the difference?). Oh and Zero and V and U are problems. Use upper case block letters only.
9. If you are THANKING receipt of a QSL, mark that clearly or you will get a second card and will waste time and money.
10. Always enclose a self-addressed return envelope (sae) that has:
a. Your complete address, printed CLEARLY, and include your
country – not everyone knows AK is in the USA !
b. Do not affix postage to this envelope* unless you are absolutely sure the DX guy can use it at his point of mailing. (I get USA postage affixed, but I want to mail it from Thailand… duh!)
c. Try to avoid folding your sae; use nesting envelops. If you just must fold the sae, never fold it exactly in half d. Use press-on/self-stick envelops and fold the flap open–that is, back over the address side so that the envelop is fully open. OR, if you use wet-to-seal glue envelops, which are stronger, be aware that these may self-seal in humid environments. ALWAYS fold wet-to-seal envelops open to avoid self-sealing.
e. Place the non-info side of your card against the sticky part of your sae or place the green stamp against the sticky part of your sae.
f. Do not put anything inside your sae.
g. Write your call sign on the sae where that writing will be covered when the sae is sealed by the DX operator—in the place where the glue will stick. This allows finding your envelop and your card when the two have been accidentally separated.
h. Because almost all mail today is air mail, use pre-printed air mail envelops or print “air mail” on your sae.
i. Envelops that are pre-printed with “return postage paid” are GREAT !
11. The outer envelop:
a. Do not seal your outer envelop so that a finger can not get into the flap to open it.
b. Use “security envelop” which has colored printing inside to retard seeing through the outer envelop.
c. You can not configure your envelop to stop postal theft so just use normal sealing methods and skip inserting extra paper hoping to stop postal people seeing through your envelop. Super sealing jobs invite attention of postal thieves.
d. Do not write any ham radio information, like call signs, on the outside of your envelops. Use non-smear permanent ink.
e. Use post office frank for postage. If you affix real stamps, you invite theft of the whole envelope and contents so that the thief can steal the stamps.
12. Also enclose:
a. USA currency ($1 is rarely enough these days, $2 is good, more if you feel generous) – See note below….**
b. Try to avoid IRCs because of problems cashing them in.
c. *Loose postage for the DX operator’s country, if you want to do an extra favor.
d. Do NOT fold the currency bills EXACTLY in half.
e. If you send no sae, no currency, nor stamps, expect a card back via the buro, if you get one at all.
f. **If you are sure that the DX operator’s country forbids its citizens from having USD, it is best to include postage for that country or, in last resort, use IRCs. Use only USA Dollars, not other country’s currencies.
13.Note that
a. Some operators like to get a separate card for each contact, and it is best to QSL in this way.
b. If you send cards for more than one call sign (generally, not a good practice), be sure to increase your donation for return postage due to increased effort and cost.
c. The best envelopes are made of Tyvek which is very water resistant, almost impossible to tear or puncture, but can be cut easily with a knife for opening. Write on Tyvek only with permanent markers to avoid wet smears. Tyvek does not take sticky labels well and needs extra long runs of good tape.
14. Look at the mail you have prepared and mentally try to use what you have created.
That is, put yourself in the recipient’s place and test your methods.
**Do not expect a return card just because you sent money. Any money you send is a free gift. If you think otherwise, then you are purchasing a QSL card which is contrary to the ham spirit.
a. Do not send a second request until 6 months have passed since the first request. Mark your second request with “second request.”
b. Do not email the DX operator to inquire about your QSL or your contact until a year has past.
c. Be sure you have envelops on file with your buro.
e. Enjoy old fashioned paper… it is so personal and fun !
f. A note about postal theft: Thieves who steal mail on a regular basis seek envelopes that form a pattern: (a) many similar ones to the same address, (b) thickness more than 1 paper sheet, and (c) from rich countries. Thieves doing this regularly can not be stopped by inserted carbon paper, valuables hidden inside inner envelopes, or other “tricks” because they simply open ALL envelopes fitting the pattern, take the valuables, and destroy the rest (thus destroying the evidence of their theft). Some thieves steal only for rare or odd stamps. Ham radio QSL mail makes a very easily identifiable pattern that simply can not be defeated by the usual tricks, so skip the tricks. Instead, try Registered Mail or, if desperate, use FedEx, UPS, or DHL. Even if you disguise your mail to look like an advertisement or typewritten official mail, the determined regular thieves may well steal EVERYTHING to an address known to get QSLs.


Front of Card:

The call sign in clear type face (see #8 above).
The DXCC entity as given in DXCC list, not just the name of a country***.
ITU zone number
CQ Magazine zone number
Grid locator
Notation if this is an island (and IOTA number if possible).
If USA, give county
Latitude and longitude of the station location.
Operator name and address*** or notation.

On the front or rear of the card, this info needs to be added:

PSE or TNX QSL marked.
Use the standard info box with the info stated in this order, left to right or on two lines:
Confirming QSO with
Time in UTC or GMT only
Frequency or Band (band is all DXCC wants, but lots of ops like to state the exact operating frequency in MHz—I like to put a freq that implies either SSB, CW, or RTTY; for example, I use 14.2 for 20meter SSB and 14.0 for 20meter CW contacts as a second indicator of the mode.
2-Way Mode.
If a computer printed label is used, try to format the label with these same words and order of the information.
Sign the card with your name or initials. For labels, make the strokes of your pen signature touch a part of your label or use a uniquely shaped rubber stamp stating “Verified by <your call sign>” that touches part of the label.
Repeat your call sign on both sides of a double sided card.
If you must use information formats that allow marking a choice of band and mode, circle the correct band and mode words rather than marking out what does not apply. Be clear!
If you have more than one call sign on your card, clearly mark which call sign applies to this specific contact.
***If your card is for a DXCC entity that is a different country from the mailing address, be sure to clearly state the DXCC entity for which this card applies.
The most appealing art on a QSL is, first, an operator photo; second, something personal and unique about the operator (family photo, pet, other hobby, etc.) and otherwise pictures of unique local items. A QTH locator map is a nice touch. I have seen rigs and antennas before—omit if not really unique. Pose your face turned toward the camera in front of your rig or stand by your antenna to get it all in one photo.


  1. 2013 note… IRC (International Reply Coupons) are likely discontinued, stopped, ended, soon. Just DO NOT USE IRC.
    If possible, put in USA 2 dollars. Alternative way to donate is via PayPal.
    It is nearly impossible for an honest ham to make money from QSL donations; usually the costs of receiving and replying are larger than the donations.
    Check Web sites to find the few hams who take the money and never reply as a habit. Forgive those hams with mail thieft, illness, travel, or death who do not QSL.
    GL, 73, Charly HS0ZCW

  2. Jan 2013….
    If sending to a QSL manager, go to the manager's Web information and follow the instructions there.
    Remember buro cards take years sometimes and some hams do not respond to buro cards at all. Make sure that YOU have provided a way to receive your buro cards. 73

  3. HS0ZCW states that $1 is rarely enough for return postage. This site shows some countries that can send airmail for $1, and Thailand is one of them. Thailand can send airmail to the US for 19 baht. (64¢ US currency) So it all boils down to what is necessary and what some ops want. Remember the ham spirit.

    73, Hal K4HB