I think the upfront annual fee may serve an important purpose for Amex.
Despite the reputation of being upscale cards, we all know that the Amex metal cards don't require a very high income or credit score. But they do require a payment of 250-550 within 60 days or less of account opening and that makes a lot of people think twice.
Normally i don't go for AF cards simply because i do not put a lot of spend on them, sometimes go month of non use. So the waived AF was a nice entry into teh card to see whether it's beneficial or not. Although back tehn it was only $195, and I had a plan of how to offset it some.
The increase to $250 and the recent AA gift card issue has definitely put a hampoer on my plan, however. Making it a questionable keeper going forward. It slightly improved when GrubHub finally added local restaurants, now I can take the $120 credit as I do eat out often already.
Be nice if they added more for variety though. The Hotel credit is subjective, and cannot aleways be counted on. I don't spend that much on "extras" at the Hotel. TBH, I've always viewed them as just a place to sleep while traveling. So the less spent there meant more to spend on other stuff etc. I just cannot wrap my head around Luxury type rooms.
AF cards definitely have a particular customer who can benefit from said credits, not everyone will find useful. So in a sense a waived AF can be too enticing for those that cannot find a way to offset it somehow.