Background Patients with chest pain or palpitations often have poor outcomes following a negative cardiac evaluation, with symptom persistence, limitations in everyday activities, and reduced health-related quality of life. The aims of this study were to evaluate illness perceptions before and after negative cardiac evaluations and measure the ability of a self-report questionnaire to predict outcomes. Methods Patients (N = 138) referred for chest pain or palpitations to a cardiac outpatient clinic were assessed before and six months after a negative cardiac evaluation. In addition to Brief Illness Perception Questionnaire (BIPQ), all patients completed the Beck Depression Inventory and SF-36 Health Survey. Results The emotional reactions to and understanding of symptoms had not improved six months after a negative cardiac evaluation. A stronger correlation between illness perceptions and health at follow-up than before the cardiac evaluation might explain the tendency for poor outcomes among these patients. Most of the eight BIPQ item scores before the negative cardiac evaluation were predictive of the outcome six months later. A single question asking about the perceived consequences of the complaints (BIPQ Item 1) rated before the cardiac evaluation was collapsed into a dichotomous variable with a cut-off at ≥4 which yields a sensitivity of 51%, a specificity of 85%, a positive predictive value of 71%, a negative predictive value of 69%, and an odds ratio of 5.7 (r = .38, p < .001) in predicting poor outcomes. Conclusions Assessing illness perceptions is important in patients with negative cardiac tests for understanding and predicting outcomes.