Current diagnostic criteria for post-transplantation diabetes mellitus (PTDM) are either fasting plasma glucose ≥7.0 mmol/l (≥126 mg/dl) or postchallenge plasma glucose ≥11.1 mmol/l (≥200 mg/dl) 2 h after glucose administration [oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) criterion]. In this retrospective cohort study of 1632 renal transplant recipients (RTRs) without known diabetes mellitus at the time of transplantation, we estimated mortality hazard ratios for patients diagnosed with PTDM by either conventional glucose criteria or the proposed glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) criterion [HbA1c ≥6.5% (≥48 mmol/mol)]. During a median follow-up of 7.0 years, 311 patients died. Compared with nondiabetic patients and after adjustment for confounders, patients diagnosed with PTDM based on chronic hyperglycaemia early after transplantation (manifest PTDM) or by the OGTT criterion at 10 weeks post-transplant suffered a higher mortality risk (HR 1.59, 95% CI 1.06–2.38, P = 0.02 and HR 1.56, 95% CI 1.04–2.38, P = 0.03, respectively). In contrast, patients diagnosed with PTDM by the HbA1c criterion at 10 weeks or between 10 weeks and 1 year post-transplant were not associated with mortality (HR 0.96, 95% CI 0.61–1.51, P = 0.86 and 1.58, 95% CI 0.74–3.36, P = 0.24 respectively). After adjustment for confounders and competing risks, only patients with manifest PTDM had a significantly higher cardiovascular mortality risk (subdistributional HR 2.31, 95% CI 1.19–4.47, P < 0.001). Since many cases with PTDM were only identified by the OGTT, we recommend monitoring fasting plasma glucose early after renal transplantation followed by an OGTT at 2–3 months post-transplant in patients without overt diabetes mellitus.