A QSL Card is a long established method of confirmation of two way radio communication between two amateur radio operators. It is also used for confirmation of one way reception of a signal from a commercial radio station or tv station.
QSL cards were typically postcard sized cards which ranged from simple black and white cards, through to coloured cards and cards with photo backgrounds with preformatted text and areas for writing date / time / reception and a few other details.
Going back many years, it was expected that you would confirm the QSL (successful transmission/reception) by exchanging QSL cards.
This could be done by a couple of ways which were
- Sending Directly via mail
- Sending (and receiving) via a QSL Bureau
The most cost efficient method for many is using their countries QSL Bureau for sending and receiving of QSL Cards. You will find that your society that represents Amateur Radio in your country will normally manage a QSL Bureau if you are interested.
However in the last 20 years or so, this practice of sending physical QSL Cards has diminished greatly. This is partly due to the time it takes to write up the cards, time to get to the post office (haven’t been there for a year or so now), making sure all details are up to date etc, ordering more cards (or printing your own) and the costs associated with either method.
Combined with decline in QSL cards as proof of QSLs for awards with online electronic logs being accepted, QSL cards are not as much sought after. However, this does not mean that they are not used. There are many hams out there that still print and maintain stock of QSL cards, just not in the quantities that that they did before, electing to send them for special contacts, or if a special request has been made for a QSL card, by a shortwave listener, school group, young ham, or someone who really values collecting QSL Cards.
So, are QSL Cards no longer??
No it’s still alive, just in a slightly different form, with many choosing to design their QSL Card online with websites like eQSL.cc (Electronic QSL Card Centre). They have a free service which allows you to create a basic card using their images, whereas for an small additional fee, you can upload an image of your own and within 20 minutes, you can have a decent looking QSL Card.
Now here is the kicker, if you use eQSL.cc’s log application to manually log your calls, the eQSL is automatically sent to your recipient. So next time they log on to eQSL, they will receive notice of their contact as well as your eQSL card with details filled out.
Ok now, your thinking that you don’t want eQSL to be your main logging program as it does not have the features you need. That’s fine, I am the same, but as a new ham, you might find it useful to get your QSL’s logged somewhere whilst you sort our your logging options.
As soon as you have your licence, I would sign up to eSQL, build your QSL card. What you find as you look at your logging software options, is that the majority actually support eQSL integration, which means that as soon as you log using logging application, it will automatically upload your QSL Record to eQSL and automatically send the eQSL recipient a copy of your QSL card and QSL record for verification.
We will talk more about this in the article Logging Software
In the meantime however, if you have your callsign, register on eQSL. If you have already had some QSO’s, when you log in to eQSL, you might be surprised to find some eQSL cards sitting in the inbox there already for contacts that I did several weeks and months earlier.
Physical QSL cards are still used, but more so only if specifically requested. If you own a decent inkjet printer, then you can print a small quantity on glossy stock (250gsm). If you end up using them, then it might be worth getting them commercially printed.
Direct sending of your own eQSL cards via email is not really an option, with many email systems block legitimate emails, in fact some spam checks now reject emails completely without returning a non-delivery report. This makes the eQSL.cc method that much more reliable.
If you are going to send physical QSL Cards, then it would be well worth investigating QSL bureaus and what you have access to and the costs. If you are a member of the WIA, it has a QSL bureau that would be worth looking into.
eQSL.cc is the most popular Electronic QSL Service and is free for basic eQSL Cards (limited graphics). In fact I am not aware of any similar service (for sending of eQSL cards). For a small yearly fee, you can put your own graphics into the eQSL card, and you are supporting the service which does require manpower, equipment, software design and much more.
Just like QRZ.COM & LOTW, eQSL.cc has its own awards system, so if your QSO’s are logged with eQSL these will apply to these awards. Furthermore eQSL works with External Award programs as well.
Finally eQSL is an online logging service that does interface/integrate with popular Logging software like Ham Radio Deluxe, N1MM, Log4OM, and applications like Gridtracker and probably many others, and the best part is as the logs are uploaded, your qQSL card goes out as well.