Order Your IRCs Online at USPS Web Site
Many hams have long complained about difficulties they have encountered when purchasing International Reply Coupons (IRCs) from their local post offices. Now the US Postal Service (USPS) has made it easier to get those IRCs to send with your direct QSL cards -- order them online from the USPS Web site. The USPS ships all in-stock domestic orders for stamps and retail items within 1 business day via Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation or First Class Mail. Shipments should arrive within 3-5 business days. All stamp orders are charged a $1 handling fee, regardless of the order amount. IRCs purchased from the USPS, whether online or in person at a post office, cost $2.10 each.
International reply coupons (IRCs) provide foreign addressees with a prepaid means of responding to inquiries, solicitations, or other types of communications that are initiated by US senders. IRCs are exchangeable for postage stamps by postal administrations in member countries of the Universal Postal Union (UPU). Each IRC is equivalent in value to the destination country’s minimum postage price for an unregistered airmail letter. According to the UPU, some 2.2 million reply coupons are sold each year by 121 postal administrations. While not all countries sell IRCs, all the postal operators of the UPU's 191 member countries, and their territories, are required to exchange them.
More than a century after it first appeared in 1907, the IRC remains a useful item. Aside from its traditional use for correspondence, according to the UPU, two particular groups of users have emerged: Students who use them as a means of exchanging correspondence with academic institutions, and Amateur Radio enthusiasts, who use coupons when exchanging their QSL cards.
As of October 11, 2007, only those IRCs that have been printed by the UPU may be redeemed at US post offices. The valid version of the international reply coupons printed by the UPU is approximately 3.75 inches by 6 inches, has a bar code on the back and an expiration date of December 31, 2013. This policy is for those IRCs issued by the United States, as well as for those issued by foreign postal administrations.